Jesus calls us to life of discipleship

Bishop Stephen Berg

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Greetings on this Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord!

This has been a fruitful season of Easter for us. From many efforts we are seeing signs of blessings. This is our time of Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, and celebrations of Resurrection. In this season we are making time together and planning our future as disciples of Christ. We are given many gifts and called to respond in gratitude in this 75th year of our diocese. Our Spring Study Days brought us together from all corners of the diocese around the book, Forming Intentional Disciples.

Author Sherry Weddell guided us through an in-depth examination of our personally “’being” with Jesus and living with Jesus the experience of the Father, and then responding, “feeling” compelled to proclaim and share what is positive and beautiful, the Gospel. This basic understanding of “being” and “feeling” with Christ is fundamental in the teachings of our last three popes about the urgency of developing a living evangelization for our Catholic faith. I highly recommend Sherry’s book, Forming Intentional Disciples found at www.siena.org.

From this priority of evangelization we shall focus our ministry according to a strategic plan of goals and objectives for the future. As we become more deeply rooted in prayer, and bring forward our identity in Christ, we will build intentional discipleship into our diocese. We are seeing signs of progress now in gathering information for a future strategy for youth ministry. We are seeing an ever-growing commitment to training future ministers in the national V Encuentro movement. We are looking with confidence to how we will increase our evangelization and effectiveness in proclaiming the Gospel to all our people.

This weekend marks the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord. The readings proclaimed call us into intentional discipleship. In the first reading from Acts of the Apostles, the followers of Jesus see him lifted up, and a cloud takes him from their sight. We may stand with them for the moment and ponder the words of the angels who appeared to them: “Why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up. . . will return.”

Before he ascends, in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus presents final instructions: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus next reassures and promises to be with them always, until the end of the age.

We know that Jesus keeps his promises. We need not look to the sky in order to find him. He has returned, he is here, he is present and alive in our diocese. We live by the wonderful gift of faith, the greater certainty of his presence in each of us. In Ephesians we hear the prayer of St. Paul: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know the hope of your call.” In this season of Easter we are renewed in our call to go, therefore, and make disciples, to proclaim the goodness and mercy of God to all people.

Under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Therese of the Child Jesus, may our prayers and efforts truly bear fruit. In gratitude for our many blessings we now welcome the intercession of Saints Lucy and Blaise for our diocese. Please know of my appreciation for the prayers and support of all of you. Now let us joyfully prepare for the coming bright, blessed celebration of Pentecost!