September 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

We begin another Ecclesiastical Year (September 1). The cycle renews. The Nativity of the Theotokos (September 8) is followed by the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross (September 14). We are off and running very quickly! The last weekend in September, we welcome our Bishop JOHN who has been with us several times already; but every time he comes is an event of great significance. Already he has found a place in our hearts as Bishop, Pastor, and Father.

The Christian life is a life of new beginnings. Every day is the beginning of a new life and therefore, ofnew possibilities. Repentance is a new beginning. It is the leaving behind of all hope of a better past and awakening to the overwhelming reality of God's infinite and unconditional Compassion right now. The only reason we have anything to fear is that we refuse to embrace the fact that he is so merciful and gracious.

One of the great Desert Fathers on his death bed was heard to be praying the prayer, "Lord, help me to make a good beginning," and that after many years of spiritual work.

The great commandment is to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. That means that we need to remove any hindrance that is in us that would have us do anything else. What are those hindrances? Think for a moment. One of them is that we make lists of whom we like and whom we do not. The Roman Catholic Deacon, Tom Anthony that Deacon Jeff and I work with at the prison in Concord put it this way speaking to the prisoners:

"When we walk into the mess hall what do we do after we get our food? We look around and decide who we are going to sit with. Every person we pass by we have judged 'unworthy' of our attention. It would be more Christian to sit with people we don't want to sit with."

Our preferences (we can call them also attachments) limit love; and since God's love is unlimited in order to be like Him, we are called to remove the boundaries we have built. Love knows no boundaries. That is the heart of repentance.

So, here at the beginning of the New Year, we are reminded that we need to make a new beginning. There is no resting on past laurels. We are always called to press on and to make this moment, and every moment, filled with love. At the prison the other night the suggestion was made by one of the guys that we rise every morning with the prayer that God send us people to love so that we get out of the prison of our egotistic minds and find the freedom and peace of God. Beautiful! Couldn't have said it better.

With much love, Yours in Christ,

Fr. Antony Hughes