As we start a new year, Bishop Hughes suggests we focus on becoming even more committed to growing deeper in our faith. (Time: 4:40.)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark. It is the start of 2024. We're only a few days into it. And we are still, very many of us, at that time of year where we're looking wistfully at the rest of the year and asking ourselves, what is it that I want to do differently this year?
And I would say that this year is a special time to ask that question or a special year to ask that question, because it is the first year in several years that we have started the year without a crisis around pandemic looming behind us, right at us and before us. It was such a part of the last three Christmases and the last three New Years in the last three Januarys. And while there's a whole raft of respiratory illnesses that are going around, some of them really are the common cold. And there's a part of that that is a bit of a relief, to head into this year where we don't have the same worries with pandemic. We are back at work, we're back in school, we're back meeting with people, we're back in our churches. And certainly from time to time, we have to be more careful, like we will ongoing with every cold, flu, RSV, and COVID season, every single year, all of us have to be a little bit more careful in those times. But it is a different time, we seem to be in a different season.
And it is with that hopefulness that I hope that as you make plans about what you want to do differently this year, that one of the things you might consider is taking your faith life even more seriously this year. I know many of you take your faith life seriously, and have a commitment to your church that involves your time being there for not only church, but for meetings and for Bible studies, and to help out with community events. Also means the amount of giving that you do and giving so generously that our churches are able to operate and thrive in many places. That you're generous in your prayers and in your showing up for things at happening, not only in the church, but in the community.
So I know many of you are quite committed to your faith life. And I'm asking that we do this in a way that makes us even more committed to our own spiritual growth, and more committed to our growing deeper in our faith. Because one of the things that happened over these three years of pandemic is each year we grew a little bit more in the faith. So I want to encourage you read that book, the one that you've been meaning to read about the spiritual life, the one that your priest has recommended to you. Decide that this is the year you're going to take on reading a particular gospel, or a particular book of the Bible. Or hey, go crazy, decide this is the year you're going to read through the entire Bible in a year. Decide that this is the year where you're going to really learn how to pray out loud and to pray with confidence. So that when somebody says, "Will anyone lead us in prayer?" You don't hesitate, you just start praying for the whole group. Let this year be that year, where you decide I'm going to reach out to another person and talk with them about faith and about hanging on. Because I know that that person is on the margins and thinks nobody cares for them. And I want them to know that not only do I care, not only does the church care, but God cares about them.
Let this be that year, that we take our faith even more seriously, that we take our spiritual lives even more seriously than we did when we were in trouble. But in this time of blessing, in this time of optimism, let growing our faith become of primary importance to us. You get to do it your way. You figure out how that's going to happen. What it is that gets your attention or has your interest or makes your heart sing. But let this be the year that we become even more faithful than we were last year.