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Encounters with Jesus in the Gospels Lenten Series Part 1- Bishop Neary's Witness of Christ's Love

I could see the sweat dripping from the brow of the well-meaning priest.  He was anxiously pacing through the throng of people, reminding them that the bishop was to make an appearance elsewhere at 5pm.   It was already well past 5.  While the priest paced and sweat, our new bishop smiled and warmly greeted guest after guest.


Bishop Patrick Neary was ordained and elected the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud just hours earlier, and the sheep of his new flock were eager to greet him to congratulate him and ask for his blessing.


I was one of those eager little lambs.  But this little lamb gets riddled with anxiety.  When I heard the priest urging people away from the bishop, I was immediately prepared to sadly oblige.  My stalwart husband had other plans.


I was six weeks pregnant with John, had extreme morning sickness, and really wanted to ask His Excellency for a special blessing over that new life.


As the bishop turned to walk away from the reception hall where we were gathered in his honor, Adam grabbed his arm and introduced us to him.  He then asked if he would bless the new life growing inside me.


Bishop Patrick Neary, 10th Bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud, MN
Bishop Neary and Adam and Leah after his blessing on her pregnancy

His reception of us so moved me.  When he spoke to us and blessed us, it was as if we were the only people in the room.  His kind attention and tender love for the tiny one inside of me, as he bestowed his blessing in an unhurried way, spoke volumes about the kind of father he is.  There is no doubt in my mind that this holy man of God is going to shepherd his flock in a heroic way.


In Luke 18:15-18, Jesus famously says, “Let the children come to me.”

 

“People were bringing even infants to him so that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 


Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

 

With tender patience, Jesus reminds his disciples just how special the children are.  How awkward for them!   Jesus invited the children to come to him after the disciples rebuked them.  I was a tenderhearted child, so if that were me in the story, I would have bawled my eyes out!  If I were a mom of one of the infants and got yelled at by the disciples, I would have been crushed and likely would have walked away from this new prophet called Jesus. 


But as the story goes, Jesus not only calls the children to Him, but then tells the disciples that they are to become like children themselves.  How humbling for those poor disciples!

Meeting Bishop Neary that afternoon reminds me so much of Jesus in Luke’s gospel.  He likely had very important people to meet with, including media outlets and guests from around the world.  But he let the children come to him.


He shepherded his flock with undivided attention and loved us the way that a good father should.


Jesus with young girl
"Let the Little One's Come to Me." Luke 18:15-18

Abby and I are doing a series on encounters with Christ in the gospel for Lent.  While I was praying about it, I asked the Holy Spirit to show me which encounter to pray with this week for my blog.  I opened up my bible and my eyes were immediately drawn to this passage. 

I thought that it was an affirmation about something else I had been praying about, and refused to believe it was to be the theme of this week's blog.  But as the week went on and I tried to find a different encounter to write about and pray with, I kept coming back to this one. 


It isn’t as scandalous and exciting as some of His other encounters within the gospel, but I have come to the conclusion that it is an excellent passage to kick off our 2024 Lent.  It follows the KISS method of goal setting for us as well (Keep It Simple Silly) where it reminds us to follow Christ in simplicity, rather than obnoxious and unrealistic Lenten observances.


Let us be like a child, and come to him, with arms wide open and hearts filled with nothing but love.


Until next time, your sister in Christ,


Leah

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