[COLUMN] On welcoming the New Year

A close friend asked me what one word I could think of to describe my wishes this New Year. I told him that I don’t have one word but two words: one for my well-being and one related to my ministry as the pastor of this parish.

For my well-being, I think of the word “grounded,” which means living a centered life through prayerful moments with God. It’s because I believe it’s the best way to deal with the demands and challenges of ministry. If my life is not grounded in prayer, and my time with God, then I will find myself experiencing anxiety, fear, and the heaviness of my role as a pastor.

Being grounded in prayer allows me to examine my true intentions and weaknesses. It allows me to dig into my layers of emotions, acknowledge them, and put them into the hands of God. It makes me surrender everything to Him, to realize that He’s in charge and I’m merely his servant.

In today’s First Reading (Is 49:3, 5-6), Prophet Isaiah seems to express the exact sentiment of being grounded in God through his words, “I am made glorious in the sight of God, and my God is now my strength.”

In his weekly article on the Sunday Readings, In Exile, Fr. Ron Rolheiser discusses the need for this “grounding” during the more than thirty weeks of “Ordinary Time” in the church calendar. He says:

“As our lives grow more pressured, more tired, and more restless, perhaps more than anything else we long for ordinary time, quiet, routine, solitude, and space away from the hectic pace of life. For many of us the very expression, “ordinary time” draws forth a sigh along with the question: “What’s that? When did I last have ‘ordinary time’ in my life?” For many of us, “ordinary time” means mostly hurry and pressure, “the rat race,” “the treadmill.”

Friends, it’s vital to find time to be centered on God and our life’s purpose. We need to carve out some time during the day to take a long breath and dwell in the loving presence of God.

The second word that relates to my ministry as a pastor is “excitement.”  Things in life and work need to excite me so that I can live life with a purpose. Excitement involves being inspired to plan and work with others to bring life and vibrancy to our parish. It’s seeing our potential and possibilities and not being bogged down with the negativities of life and criticisms.

Excitement brings joy to our life and cultivates creativity. It keeps us alive in spirit no matter what our age. It inspires others to participate in the life of the community. Finally, it draws people to God!

So for each of you, what word or words would describe your wishes for the new year? What do you want to cultivate in your life?

May God fill your hearts and minds with his love and peace! May the New Year bring the necessary excitement to your life!

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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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