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Bishop calls for faithful to consecrate themselves to Jesus

 030521bishop lenten series

Bishop Robert J. McClory prays before the Blessed Sacrament during the first of his series of five Lenten Retreats, hosted on Feb. 25 at St. John the Evangelist in St. John. Titled "Encounter. Grow. Witness," the Thursday night sessions continue March 11 at St. Michael the Archangel in Schererville, March 18 at St. Patrick in Chesterton and March 25 at St. Paul in Valparaiso, all in-person and livestreamed at 7 p.m. (Marlene A. Zloza photo)

 

BY MARLENE A. ZLOZA

Northwest Indiana Catholic

           

“Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” -       Pope Benedict XIV

 

            ST. JOHN – “Faith is first and foremost a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus,” Bishop Robert J. McClory told his flock on Feb. 25 as led the first of five weekly Lenten Retreats in the Diocese of Gary. “It is having an experience of his closeness, his friendship and his love. It is in this way that we learn to know him even better and to love him and follow him even more and more.”

            Following the theme, “Encounter. Grow. Witness.,” Bishop McClory devoted much of his Lenten reflection to establishing the importance of each person’s personal invitation from Jesus Christ to not just know about him, but to dedicate their life totally to him.

            “It is more than knowing about Jesus … it’s an encounter that brings with it a response, and that response makes all the difference,” the bishop said at St. John the Evangelist.

            More than 150 people attended the worship service in person, while at least 300 more watched the livestream broadcast of the Exposition of the Eucharist, a Gospel reading and reflection by the bishop, silent prayer and sacred music performed by the SJE Praise Band.

            “It was a renewal of my faith in God, and we really need it for the whole world,” said Roberta Nicksich, a parishioner at St. Thomas More in Munster. “I spent my (quiet) time tonight praying for everyone on Earth. It’s a very important time, and we need God.”

            Displaying one of the holy cards distributed at the 2016 funeral of his mother, Ann Cecilia McClory, the bishop noted that the picture on the front was of the Sacred Heart, while the back contained an Act of Consecration to the Divine Heart of Jesus.

            Noting that some people who received one of the holy cards, “read the prayer every day and their lives have been renewed and transformed,” the bishop compared a consecration to “dedicating yourself to that which is holy. It’s a response to an encounter with Jesus.

            “Someone may have asked you (in the past), ‘Have you given your heart to the Lord? Have you turned to him as your Lord and Savior?’” noted Bishop McClory, “but the Prayer of Consecration to the Sacred Heart is pretty powerful, and if you say yes to all of it, you are more than giving your heart to God.”

            The Gospel reading chosen by the bishop (Mark 10:17-31) tells the story of the Rich Young Man who asks Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

            Jesus first reminds him of the commandments, which the young man claims to follow, but when Jesus  tells him he must also, “Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me,” the young man becomes despondent, because he has many possessions and is not willing to part with them.

            “He seeks out Jesus, and that’s a good thing, but he wasn’t quite able to commit,” the bishop explained. “He says, ‘I’m living a good life,’ but Jesus wants it all, because he’s got more to give us.”

            While the young man “goes away sad because he’s not ready to say yes to the invitation of Jesus,” the bishop said as a hopeful person, “I still hold out hope for him, as I hold out hope for us, that he’ll come back, after the Resurrection, and say, ‘I didn’t give the right answer, but now I’m all in.’

            “Jesus gives us that invitation every day, and it requires a response,” the bishop said. Called to become disciples – students, learners, servants for whom Jesus is the Lord – it is “a complete giving of one’s self.”

            After relating his own “faith journey,” which included being raised in a strong Catholic home and giving his own response to God as a teenager who was awestruck by the connection of God to the wonders of nature, immersed in a strong youth group and “realized I had to say ‘yes’ to God” during a national youth conference, the bishop pointed out that the invitation from Jesus is always there awaiting a response when the time is right.

            When he realized he was ready to respond to his encounter with Jesus, “I said, ‘Okay, Jesus, I’m yours. I’m flawed, I’m weak and I’m not worthy, but I’m placing my trust in you,” said the bishop.

            Every day is about saying ‘yes,’ he added. “Tonight’s the night to take all the verbiage that I mentioned in that consecration prayer and say (to Jesus), ‘I want you more deeply in my life.”

            Stephen Hoye, of Dyer, an usher at SJE, said the Lenten Holy Hour, “Really kind of brought things into focus, (showed us) how we should live every day. We need to focus on God and what he wants us to do, not what we want to do.”

            Hoye added that Bishop McClory’s “simple method” of explaining Christ’s invitation “is phenomenal. He is easy to understand and relate to. Hearing his story, he’s like us, but he has given himself up and begun to do what God wants him to do.”

            Leilani Suchanuk, a Munster resident and St. Thomas More parishioner, “found holiness, and a lot of inspiration and love,” in the bishop’s words, she said. “It brought me closer to my religion.”

            To respond to Jesus’ invitation, said the bishop, “is like saying, ‘I’m signing my life over to you. Jesus, you’ve got all of it. I’m not holding anything back.’ There is a reward,” he added. “His love came first. He wants to give us abundant life, wants to provide for our needs and give us a new capacity to live in the Holy Spirit.”

            Quoting Pope Francis, the bishop said, “Let the risen Christ enter your life. Welcome him as a friend with trust. He is life…Take a risk; you won’t be disappointed. He is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength you need.

            “Just say, ‘Jesus, I’m giving it all to you,” urged Bishop McClory. “There is no better way to respond. There is no better time than now.”

 

            Remaining Lenten Retreats with Bishop Robert J. McClory will be held at 7 p.m. Thursdays, including March 11 at St. Michael the Archangel in Schererville; March 18 at St. Patrick in Chesterton; and March 25 at St. Paul in Valparaiso. Check with the individual parish on whether registration is required, or watch the livestream at the Diocese of Gary’s YouTube channel.

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