[COLUMN] Growing in relationship with Jesus

WHEN I was in the college seminary, an American Jesuit priest, Father Thomas Greene, wrote two books that became primers for developing a good prayer life. These books were Opening to God: A Guide to Prayer and When the Well Runs Dry: Prayer Beyond the Beginnings. They became popular among seminarians, priests, and anyone who wanted to grow in their prayer life.

This past week, I was excited to find another book in our rectory library that Fr. Greene wrote. It’s entitled Drinking from a Dry Well, a sequel to When the Well Runs Dry. It was a gift given to Fr. John O’Brien and signed by the author. Immediately, I glanced through the pages of this book published in 1990 to gain insights on spirituality this new year.

One insight on “truth” related to “faith” caught my attention. Truth, Fr. Greene wrote, “is that which is solid, steadfast, unchanging—that in which one can believe. The true is not merely an object of intellectual assent but something that demands a personal commitment. To hear the truth, then, is to commit oneself to Jesus Christ. It involves not only the head but also, and even more, the heart and the will.”

Fr. Greene’s words go well with what I intend to do this year: to go more inward, in other words, to strengthen my relationship with Jesus and my commitment to serve him, especially during these challenging times of the pandemic and the church ministry.

It’s also my desire for you as we start the new year. I wish you all to go more inward through prayer to and with Jesus as you experience the fears and anxieties of these times. In this way, you can attain peace of mind and heart. There is nothing like growing in intimacy with Jesus and receiving the gifts of his Spirit, which are “charity, joy, peace, patience, endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness, and chastity.” (Galatians 5:19-22)

I also wish that you grow stronger in your commitment to serve Him in the best way that you can. As I wrote to you last week, every crisis should allow us to become the best version of ourselves.

Committing ourselves to growth in prayer and our service to Jesus entails seeking knowledge, according to Fr. Greene. He proposed that we use the analogy of human love:

Who is this person I am drawn to love? What are his values? What would it mean to spend my life with her? This knowledge we seek is not only knowledge of the other person. I also seek to know myself. Who am I really? What am I seeking in life? What do I bring to this relationship? What would I have to change in myself in order to share my life happily and fruitfully with the person I am drawn to love?

There is no more appropriate time to ask these questions than the start of the year and as we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. As adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus through Baptism, God, our Father, is also pleased with us as we grow in love and fidelity to Him and our mission to transform this world with the power of His love.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.


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