Each year the Bishops of the Province of Los Angeles begin the New Year with a silent, directed retreat at the Cardinal Timothy Manning House of Prayer for Priests in Los Angeles.
These are always blessed days since we are able to set aside the concerns and the worries of every day life, and to spend these eight days in quiet prayer and reflection. This year I am using Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, The Gospel of Joy, for my reflections.
It is so reassuring that Francis grounds his Exhortation in the great virtue of Joy, and that he begins by assuring us that God's overarching love and mercy for us brings us the gift of joy. We are not to understand God as one who is constantly angry with us because of our failures and sins; rather, our God is one who never tires of calling us to himself, of loving us, and of forgiving us.
That is truly "good news" for all of us, and a wonderful mind-set with which to begin the New Year!
The Gospel of Joy is divided into five chapters, making it ideal for a week of retreat.
I would urge all of you to get your own copy of The Gospel of Joy and to reflect upon each of the chapters. Sadly, some commentators have chosen to quote a few sentences of the document without understanding the context--one based on Jesus' life, teachings, and personal example.
May all of us discover anew God's great love and mercy towards us, and the joy which God's presence in our lives brings us!
The Gospel of Joy can be purchased through the Publications Office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: http://www.usccbpublishing.org/productdetails.cfm?SKU=7-458