Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Becoming a better companion of Christ 

By BISHOP BERNARD E. SHLESINGER III, Commentary | Published November 29, 2022  | En Español

I recently attended an eight-day silent directed retreat in order to discern more deeply how the Lord is leading me as a bishop. As soon as I started my retreat, I quickly realized that Jesus was asking only one thing of me; he was not asking me to be successful in the future or to learn now to resolve problems in a better way, rather, he was inviting me simply to be with him as his companion. 

Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III

Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III

Over the course of the retreat, I felt like I could once again let go of life in order to find again my life in him. Jesus responded to my weary soul by inviting me to see myself from his loving perspective instead of carrying the burden of my office and assessing if he was pleased with my performance. I rediscovered that being a joyful bishop and disciple meant simply becoming a better companion of Christ.  

While on retreat, I knew that I was not escaping from my responsibilities as a bishop; nor was I removing myself from the problems of the world for they were still waiting for me when the eight days of silence were over. My spiritual director frequently reminded me that I was not called to “achieve” something on the retreat but to “receive” something on retreat if I could simply remain with him.   

During the periods of meditation on retreat, I was often captivated by the image of St. John leaning on the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper. In this image, the eyes of John are closed and the eyes of Jesus are open. I often thought of how better I would be if I could close my eyes to the problems that I sometimes face, knowing that Jesus sees them too. I could be better still if I could take courage that he has power over them as I rest next to his heart. In my prayer, this message was repeated: I am not called as his disciple to solve problems but to proclaim his love as his companion. 

As I neared the conclusion of my retreat, I knew that I would enter a world that still had not drastically changed. Yes, there would be news of victories and losses in sports, advertisements concerning candidates for election and the suffering from the war in the Ukraine, to name a few of the events happening when I first entered the retreat.  

I knew that once I returned to the world I would still feel an intense anger at the injustice and lack of respect for the dignity of the human person while the voice of personal choice drowns out the silent cry of the unborn for life and love. Yes, I knew that I had much work to do. However, I was grateful to God that there would be a changed bishop to do the work.   

As we begin the season of Advent, let us remember this: As we desire to look forward to his coming into this world, let us not forget to be his companion in life.