“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9)
Happy New Year! As I write this blog, the Jesuit Spiritual Center’s youth ministry team just completed our first full week of ministry in 2018. Editing the one second videos I recorded the last couple months reminded me how quickly 2017 came to a close.
As I reflect on the past year, I have so many milestones to be grateful for: graduating college, moving to Cincinnati, and beginning my first full-time ministry job. Yet, last year also saw me through difficult transitions, disappointments, and uncertainties about my future. Therefore, I am grateful I had the opportunity to end my year reflecting and praying in the North Georgia mountains.
The week before Christmas, I traveled to Camp Hidden Lake in Dahlonega, Georgia for Life Teen’s annual John 15 retreat. John 15 gathers past summer missionaries from Life Teen’s Catholic youth camps for a retreat of reunion and refreshment. After a busy season of retreat ministry and transition, the retreat offered me time to rest and reflect on God’s presence in my life.
During the three-day retreat, I had time to reconnect with friends I made during my time serving at camp Hidden Lake, as well as, meet other young adults who are passionate about youth ministry and the Catholic faith. One of my favorite moments of retreat was reconnecting with one of the campers from my small group, who returned to camp this summer to serve as a missionary herself!
On the drive from the Atlanta airport to Hidden Lake, I reflected on all that had changed since I left camp two summers ago. My summer serving as a missionary transformed my relationship with Christ and challenged me to grow in countless ways. When I left camp a year and a half ago, there were so many resolutions I wanted to make in my life and my relationship with God. For instance, I wanted to become a more courageous witness of God’s love in my family and on my college campus. I desired to share and live out the lighthearted, joy-filled outlook on life I discovered while on mission.
Yet, once I returned to the busyness of classes and work my senior year of college, I often fell back into my old habits of negativity and doubt. I often let stress and fear steal my joy. I struggled to pray and maintain my relationship with God. However, as I journeyed back to Hidden Lake for retreat this year, I rested in the hope that God never changes.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)
The circumstances of my life have changed since I served as a summer missionary. I have moved away from Baltimore and now spend most days leading small groups rather than study sessions. Yet, no matter what changes in my life, God remains the same. God never changes.
As I look to the future, there are so many ways I want to grow and so many fears I want to overcome. It overwhelms me when I think about all the ways I want to grow, serve, minister, sing, love, and pray in 2018. Yet, Jesus’ words in John’s gospel remind me that I cannot accomplish anything without God’s grace. Jesus says: “Whoever abides in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The fruit God wants to bear in my life is not simply “good ministry.” Rather, God wants to use our daily acts of love and service to bear the fruit of eternal life. Above all, my hope this year is to spend more time abiding in Jesus’ love, so I may grow to trust that His love and grace are more than enough for me.