As we turn the page and begin a new year of grace, my prayer for all of you is that you will enter into a deeper and closer friendship with Jesus.
I want to invite you to adopt a new habit in 2022. Begin reading the Gospels, beginning to end, read a portion every day, but make sure you read them straight through. Start with the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 1, and continue reading every day until you get to the end of the Gospel of John. Then begin the process again.
If you read a chapter each day, it will take you 89 days to complete all of the Gospels. But even if you read less daily, the point is to spend time with Jesus every day and to get to know his story.
In his fine new book, “The Life of Jesus Christ” (Our Sunday Visitor, $15.95), the Catholic journalist Russell Shaw tells how a friend of his — a lifelong Catholic, well-educated professional, active in his parish — sat down one day and read St. Matthew’s Gospel from beginning to end. It was the first time he had ever done that. He was excited, and surprised. “It’s telling a story!” the man exclaimed.
We are accustomed to hearing short passages from the Gospels read every week at Sunday Mass. Sometimes it is hard to remember that each of the Gospels is telling a story, from its own point of view — the story of the life of Jesus Christ.
And we need to know this story. That is why for many years now, I have made it part of my spiritual practices to spend time every day reading the Gospels. That is why I recommend it to you. Because in the life of Jesus, we discover the life that he wants each one of us to live.
In the Gospels, we read how Jesus invited the disciples of St. John the Baptist to reflect on his words and deeds, what they have “seen and heard.”
He invites his disciples in every age to do the same thing. This is how we get to know Jesus, and how we grow in friendship with him — by opening the pages of the Gospels to see and hear.
You can trust the Gospels. They were written by people who knew the apostles, and they are based on their witness to what Jesus really did and taught.
Read with prayer. Simply ask Jesus to speak to your heart through the words on the page. Ask for the grace to feel the excitement of being near to Jesus, and sometimes the sense of tension and danger.
You can be in the room where he is speaking, or follow him in the streets, or listen to him on the plains and hillsides. You can be seated alongside the apostles in a boat next to him.
The saints are always reading and rereading the Gospels, and trying to apply them to their own lives. St. Cecilia, from the time she was a little girl, was in the habit of hiding a copy of the Gospels in her clothing, close to her heart.
In our own times, St. Josemaría Escrivá taught, “Take up the Gospel every day, then, and read it and live it as a definite rule. This is what the saints have done.”
If we open our hearts to Jesus every day in the Gospels, over time he will help us to come to a deeper understanding of ourselves. We need to ask for the humility to allow him to question our assumptions and motivations, to challenge and make demands of us.
Reading the life of Jesus every day, we come to discover our story in his story, we find ourselves living the life of Jesus. This is how he forms our characters and shapes our souls in his divine image.
The more time you spend with Jesus, the more you will find yourself becoming like him — more compassionate and loving, more patient and forgiving. You will find more love in your relationships, a new peace in your heart.
With the media in our society, there is so much “competition” for our minds and hearts, for what we think about and how we occupy our time. This year, let us resolve to fill our hearts and minds, not with entertainment or games or distractions, but with the life of Jesus Christ.
Pray for me and I will pray for you.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to keep all the things of Jesus — his words, his actions, the scenes from his life — and to ponder and reflect on them in our hearts, just as Mary did.