Pope Francis has a favorite quote, and I do too. In the seventh paragraph of his first Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), he not only quotes Pope Benedict but also says that he never tires of quoting this central theme of Christian living. Here is the full quote:
- “I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’ ” 
In his first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” Pope Benedict shares this great insight that has become a major theme of Pope Francis’ ministry. At the root of our faith is an encounter with a Person, the Person of Jesus Christ.
I remember when I was in 10th grade and someone gave me a little New Testament. Slowly I read the episodes in the life of Jesus and, while we did not have Pope Benedict’s words at that time, I must admit that I sensed in some real way that Jesus was actually calling me to follow Him through the pages of the Gospels. No doubt such an impact on my life could well be called the opening of new horizons and the call for a decisive direction.
New horizons have been on my mind as we seek to arise from the year-long COVID-19 restrictions. Clearly, Jesus calls each of us to purify our priorities and to set our life on the course that the divine plan has in store for us.
A little over a week ago, I visited the campus of the University of Louisville for an inspiring Mass and meal with the Catholic students who have become so active. I could sense that call of Jesus in the room.
I was so impressed by the vibrancy of the students, and I express deep thanks to the leadership of Father John Paul Kern, O.P., the Catholic Chaplain and director of Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Louisville. While the auditorium was practically COVID-19 full of 50+ students, even more impressive was the reverence and the vibrancy of faith that they expressed.
The FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) volunteers are working hard and in all cases present a very attractive life of faith. I believe that these outreach efforts have produced very good fruit. I was duly impressed by the brand new RCIA program, with one catechumen and three candidates for this first year of the program. Father John Paul is looking forward to collaborating with Father Bill Bowling, pastor of Holy Name and Holy Trinity Parishes, for an Easter Vigil service at Holy Name Catholic Church on April 3.
I also must say that I pray each day for those receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation — mostly eighth graders. My homily of saying yes to worthwhile volunteer efforts in high school as well as making friends and coming to know Jesus Christ in the Gospels will, I pray, open new horizons for these fine youth.
The readings for the Second Sunday of Lent present the Transfiguration of Jesus — truly a gift to the disciples who soon would have to walk with Jesus in his painful suffering and death. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus surrounds Himself with friends. What a privilege it was for them to encounter Jesus, who was transfigured before their eyes on the top of Mount Tabor. Similarly, on another mountain 18 centuries earlier, Abraham was tested in faith by God our Father, who also revealed himself powerfully and who set in motion a journey of faith that allows us to call Abraham a father of our faith.
As we draw close to Jesus in these Lenten days, let us keep that wonderful quote that describes what it means to be a Christian close to our hearts:
- “I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’ ”