As your newly ordained bishop, I’m still wet behind the ears. More accurately, I’m wet on the head. The chrism oil was just placed there a couple of weeks ago.
As of Feb. 11, we have begun our new journey together. I’m delighted that so soon after my ordination, we enter the season of Lent. Lent is a season of unpacking, leaving some things behind and adopting some new habits. I’m doing all those things right now.
I’m still unpacking. I had most of my items shipped to Gary a couple of weeks before the ordination. I was without them for a while. At first, I missed several items. Then, I adjusted to not having them around. There is something freeing about less reliance on material items, even those that are familiar. Now, I am starting to almost dread going through the boxes.
Lent is a season in which we leave some things behind. Fasting frees us from an over-reliance on certain satisfactions in our lives, whether we are fasting from sweets or alcohol or video time. When we step out in faith to let go of some things, we realize that we are better off without them. God might be calling us to embrace and maintain those new habits. The Lord can use this as a season of purification and renewal.
I will work through those boxes and take the time to review what’s worth keeping and what’s worth leaving behind. Of course, I did much of that before I left for Gary –– but I feel called to purge a bit more, to review once again what matters and what I should keep and what I should let go. It’s not easy, but it’s worthwhile. “Unpacking” can be hard work, but it can also be a good experience.
Settling into a new place also means that I start new habits and routines. This can be somewhat disorienting. I am quite literally still spun around a bit as I figure out directions and rely –– perhaps too much –– on the GPS. My daily routine is different now, too. I’m out and about and getting to know our family. I also have a different pattern of meetings and settings.
This new setting and season means I’m experimenting a bit with favorite times and places to pray. I have flipped around things like meal times and walking routines. My new role as bishop is opening me up to God’s love in new and different ways.
It can be tempting to put God in a box, to tell him when and where and how he can act in our lives. A sudden disruption in our routines can open us up to new ways God wants to reveal himself to us. I enjoy meeting new people, and certainly, this is a season for such meetings. Spiritually, I am open to God revealing himself to me in new ways this Lent.
The anchors of a good Lent are found in the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Saint Matthew: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. “When you give alms… When you pray… When you fast…” (Mt. 6). I invite you to join with me in embracing these Lenten practices. Perhaps, like me, there will be new ways that God will reveal himself to you this Lent as you embrace new beginnings, unpack and start some new habits.
Lent is a time to look deep within ourselves so we can let go of what we don’t want or need, embrace who we are called to be and move toward the person God knows we can be. Have an amazing Lent!
The Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Bishop of Gary