Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The courage to surrender in faith

By BISHOP BERNARD E. SHLESINGER III | Published June 8, 2023  | En Español
Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III

Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III

There is group of seven women from the Seven Sisters Apostolate in Atlanta who prays for me every day. One of them frequently asks me, “For what should I pray for you today?” My response is always the same, “The grace to surrender!”  

Although I want to imitate Jesus’ own surrender to his Father, the idea of totally abandoning my life into the hands of our Father is a daunting one. Instead of giving God carte blanche over planning my future, I tend to want to negotiate or presume that God is OK with me planning my agenda.   

For example, instead of praying, “Thy will be done,” I might really be telling our Lord, “You can have this percentage of my time today, but don’t tell me not to go fishing tomorrow when the weather is conducive to catching fish.” Furthermore, I might tell God about how good my plan to proclaim the Kingdom is but burden myself by not heeding to the Gospel, which tells me to take nothing with me for the journey. 

The greatest challenge facing Christians today relates to a crisis of faith. Yes, we are given reason to solve many of our daily problems, but we are called to rely more upon God and his power at work in us.  

When the Holy Spirit came upon the first disciples on the Feast of Pentecost, they seemed oblivious to the dangers outside of the cenacle, dangers relating to the ruling Roman political authority or the possibility of martyrdom for proclaiming a faith that seemed inimical to the Sanhedrin. Reason might have suggested that they stay at home or move to a more favorable climate. They did not even have a game plan developed beforehand on how to convert the nations and make disciples. Nevertheless, they did have the Gospel and the Holy Spirit. They surrendered to living under the influence of the Holy Spirit rather than living under the influence of fear.   

As we journey through Ordinary Time, the green vestments symbolize hope and life for each new day because of the Resurrection of our Lord. Even when I reason that I might have a good plan for the day, I am reminded of something from the Scriptures like Psalm 33:16, “A king is not saved by a great army, nor a warrior delivered by great strength.” I remember that I must live out Pentecost rather than look back upon it as only a date in history.  

As far as the future is concerned, living with the “what ifs” will never lead any of us forward from our cenacles. For example, “What if I fail?” or “What if a lose my cell phone?” or “What if I am rejected or disgraced before others?” These questions are all related to uncertainty rather than faith. What is needed to surrender is simply to ask questions such as, “What does God want?”, “What is God doing?” and “What have I yet to surrender in order to acquire a faith that can move mountains?”