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A Look Forward in 2020

As the Polish Christmas carol states “New Year comes flying…” and certainly already we find ourselves a few weeks into the year of our Lord, 2020.  Although I certainly know that the New Year is really only an arbitrary point in time during the year, it is still an opportunity that allows us to consider new beginnings and another chance to put old ways behind us and start afresh. 

Now I also know that the New Year is the time for making resolutions.  Many of us will make plans to begin some new habit that is more healthful or fruitful for our lives.  Maybe we will resolve to give up a bad habit, like smoking or overeating.  Maybe we will resolve to pick up a new and better habit like a daily walk or joining the gym.  While these certainly are laudable things and I certainly have done such things in the past, I really don’t spend that much time on such thoughts today.  In fact I just read in the papers that since we are now three weeks into the New Year, it is right now the time when most people have just begun to give up on any resolutions that they had made at the beginning of the Year.

I think that this year I want to challenge all of us, myself included, to examine our spiritual lives and our seeking to follow our Lord, Jesus Christ, more closely to see where we can improve there.  In this I am moved by the third verse of the carol mentioned above, “New Year Comes Flying.”  It states: “How shall we find Him?  How shall we know our Jesus, Lord?  In humble wrappings, not in rich velvet, seek Him there.” 

This is a reminder that while it is quite easy to make a grand resolution in our spiritual lives to challenge ourselves to reading Holy Scripture for an hour each night, or praying all of the Daily Office each day, this might be a little too much of “rich velvet,” and therefore won’t have much of a chance of having a real impact on our lives because we won’t be able sustain this resolution.  We see that the hymn tells us that we will find our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in “humble wrappings.”  We will be able to find Him in the small ways that we seek to follow Him more closely and since we will be able to sustain these small ways it will allow us to truly incorporate these new ways of growing closer to Jesus within our lives.

It is with this in mind that the Future Direction Subcommittee has chosen this year to focus our attention each month on different people that we encounter in the pages of Scripture and how each of them can lead us, even if only in one small way, to more closely follow Jesus.  Like many of us, the people we encounter in the pages of Holy Scripture did not always live perfect and holy lives.  Although they knew of the ways of God, some struggled to follow His commandments.  Many were aware of the fact that God was calling them to a more holy life, but they were also aware that they had shortcomings and difficulties that kept them at a distance.  It was an encounter with Almighty God, an encounter with Jesus Christ, that allowed them to put these things behind them and rather focus their attention on following Jesus more closely.

This is exactly what each of us can do in examining our lives and asking ourselves pointed questions about how we can change one or two small things that will bring us closer to Jesus.  It will then be in this “humble wrapping” that we can approach Jesus and find ways to be better disciples and more closely follow Him.

For just one small example, I take a few moments every morning before I leave for the office and read Morning Prayer as a part of the Daily Office.  While I would certainly like to be more faithful in praying all of it during the seven times each day, this is at least something that I can do each morning.  And in a way that makes it even more “humble” I can pray this Daily Morning Prayer on my cell phone even when not at home.  While there certainly is something nice about opening up a beautiful Prayer Book and saying these prayers, when I am traveling or even just find myself in another room at home, there is no excuse.  Like most of you, I always have my cell phone with me, but in this way it can be the source of my daily prayers and not just a source of social media. 

And this is just one small example; there are certainly many others.  In dealing with how we treat each other, we can begin right with the people we live with each and every day.  With the ways we try to do good in our community we begin with just saying hello and being a friendly person to the people we encounter as we go about our daily life.  Each of these is a small and humble way to begin to change our lives, but the reality is that it will be real change which moves us in the direction of being a better and more faithful disciple of Jesus.

The Future Direction Subcommittee this year will challenge us through a number of short YouTube videos concerning some of the people we encounter in Holy Scripture.  Some we might know very well, and so the presentations will allow us to enter a little deeper into the life of this person and hopefully take away one small humble aspect that we can make a part of our own lives on our road of discipleship.  If it is a person we do not know as well, then the presentation will allow us to see a new face within the Scriptures and to see the challenges that they encountered and how they met them.  Within all of it there will be lessons for us and a chance to increase our own discipleship in one humble way.

Although over the past many years the Future Direction Subcommittee has changed the theme for each year in the hope of focusing on some different aspect of our Christian journey, following the lead of our General Synod in October of 2018, we are going to focus for a number of years solely on Discipleship.  It is an important matter within our life as a believer and one that can be explored in many different ways. For all those who want to participate in this program of the Polish National Catholic Church, send a short email to FutureDirection@pncc.org to get on the distribution list or subscribe to the P.N.C.C. Future Direction YouTube channel.

But of course the exploration is not the point; we are striving to be better and more committed disciples of Jesus, and this takes not only an examination of our lives, but also the commitment to actually change them through small and humble ways where we can grow closer to Jesus.

While I know that we are not yet to the season of Lent with its strong focus on repentance, we are not that far off, either.  Therefore, I want all of us to reflect on the word which is translated as repentance which is ‘metanoia.’  This Greek word means to change one’s mind or to change one’s course of life.  It is through these small and humble actions that we can truly begin to “change our course of life.”  To change it to one where Jesus is in the lead and we are truly His followers, His disciples. The Future Direction program this year will allow us to meet others who were on that journey as well; those who followed Jesus.  When we reflect on their lives and their ways of discipleship, we are following the admonition of St. Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

I encourage all of us to allow this to be a program for our spiritual resolutions for the New Year.  Then hopefully and prayerfully we can truly say that 2020 will be a time for “New Year, New You.”  But this new you will be one who more closely follows Jesus, and allows His life to fully live in you.

Wishing all of my brother Bishops, the Very Rev. and Rev. Fathers, the Deacons, all Polish National Catholics and all people of good will a joyous New Year in which we will know Jesus more fully and love Him more dearly.

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