From Father's Desk

Dear Parish Family,

Last week we began the Year of our Lord (anno Domini) 2023 and we ushered in the New Year by honoring Mary, Mother of God and our mother. We discussed a little about beginning the new year as a new chapter of our lives, setting aside the past and moving forward with faith and hope to live in the present. God is in the present and to receive his grace we too need to be in the present. If we are stuck in the past with resentment or plunged into the future with worry, our hearts are not fully open to his grace in the moment. So what God-centered resolution are you resolved to make for this new year of grace?

Today we begin a new message series called BAGGAGE. As you can imagine, we will be focusing on what it means to move beyond the past, to leave what is behind us… back there, and not to carry it forward. That word “resentment” literally means to feel it again. And if it was painful the first time, what good is it to feel it all over again?

One of the things about baggage, hard feelings, memories that we relive - call it what you will - is that they are a burden. They weigh us down. But sometimes we do not even recognize that. Sometimes we can be like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, and despite the heavy weight of what we carry, we make it our valuable possession, our prize and even at times, the thing that defines us.

Today on the feast of the Epiphany, we remember that moment when the Magi brought the child Jesus three precious gifts, carried a long way: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The scriptures do not tell us how much of each the stargazers presented to our newborn King, but each of these gifts is quite dense, gold being the most. I wonder what the Magi thought along the way as they journeyed with such precious cargo to meet the one who would save the world from our sins? Perhaps their dromedaries felt burdened by the load. Maybe they doubted if the child would be worthy of such great presents.

In the process of setting down our baggage, or laying down our burdens - be they precious or otherwise - it is first important to recognize what we carry, to name it. The first stage in the process of forgiveness is denial. It can be quite common not to want to admit that someone is living rent-free in our mind and heart. We might make excuses for why we hold this grudge, or we might refuse to forgive for the bitterness from which we draw some odd comfort. Denial is step one and often the step we need to overcome to begin the process. This week I would ask you in prayer to spend some time naming who you would like to forgive; come to terms with the fact that there is someone who needs your forgiveness, so that you take the steps with God’s help to be free from the burden.

Stage two is acknowledging our need to forgive. Awareness or recognition of our need to forgive is the next step in the process. For some of us, we may even have tried to forgive, or reach out but our effort was rebuffed. Maybe we thought that “time would heal all wounds” as the cliche goes, but we discovered that time actually doesn’t heal all wounds. So coming to acknowledge that burden is the next step.

Finally there is actually forgiving the other person, to release someone from the debt they owe. That is actually what it means to forgive - to cancel a debt, to release one from obligation to repay. And in so doing, we actually release ourselves from the baggage of carrying around the scorecard or the ache of the past wound allowed to fester in our hearts.

2023 is a new year and it can be a new chapter in each of our lives, a chapter that begins with setting down the straps of the baggage we carry and moving forward with the grace of God.

Here is to a lighter new year!
Fr. Wilson