There are days when I feel older than I am! My aches and pains seem to be more acute than they were when I was younger. I guess it is better than the alternative — right? Right! Nevertheless, as my life goes by — aches and pains and all — I really find that I appreciate life so much more. Age may bring bruises, but it certainly does offer an incredible amount of wisdom!
I want to share some ideas with you about the beauty and value of life, and I’d like to point out that we — the Diocese of La Crosse — are jumping into a very precious part of our own life in the Church and in society, our sesquicentennial birthday. One hundred and fifty years cover a lot of history and so much evangelization — telling the good news. We’ve done that very well during our first 150 years — and we should all share a bit of the glory that comes with it.
As life goes on, we discover the aspects from our past that echo deeply in our memories. Joys and sorrows bring all sorts of experiences back to us in vivid moments. We are all quite complicated when it comes to our reflections and sentiments. We still remember times when we were very young and laugh at experiences that have contributed to the people we have become today.
Life is astonishing and each of us lives it in different ways. As we enter into the actions of a 150th birthday, our shared experience becomes significant. We want to look back and think of the history we have been part of, and all the things we remember. Those things, parts of our past, are pieces of time about which we can be sure, confident and secure; they rest easily in our minds and we know that, for good or ill, they cannot be changed. They are part of history. We do, however, need to consider more. Pieces of the past, our history, can help us discover how well we will live in the future.
God has given us the past so that we might learn from it and fashion a future that will provide us blessings for the life ahead. Thinking about the past may bring us to some happy or sad remembrances — but it’s what we do with the memories that will determine what kind of people we will become.
Our faith in Jesus is meant to stir thoughts within us about the future we have before us as children of God. The Church has a great history — a history filled with the knowledge that the Son of God has walked with us on this planet sharing with us the joys and adventures of human life. In those memories, we are reminded of the future that has been guaranteed for us by Christ’s coming and the eternal gifts that are ours, as well.
So many people, it seems, are willing to only look back. They mourn missed opportunities, regret lost loves, grieve broken hearts, are unable to forgive and bemoan circumstances that could have been better “if only.” Many times, so many of us forget that God is always open to second chances and “do over’s.”
An anniversary or a birthday is a great opportunity to remind ourselves of the promises of tomorrow — what great gifts! Yes, they come with the price tag of the passage of time, but our faith reminds us that we know where time is passing — into the future. A future that is filled with promise — the promise of eternity and unending life. A former teacher of mine once reminded me: “If you are having trouble with this life, what are you going to do with MORE life that God promises for the future?”
We are prepared to usher in a major birthday for our diocese — a sesquicentennial’s worth! It is filled with plenty of looks into the past and lots of memories; it is filled, moreover, with incredible opportunities and amazing graces that carry the beauty of promises fulfilled with God’s Truth.
I suppose we can say we’re getting old, but I’d prefer to see us as part of a future that is undimmed and vital — the coming kingdom of God.
Bishop William Patrick Callahan