Several months ago a very good friend of mine asked me to be his sponsor on his journey through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). I was flattered, humbled and excited…all at the same time. Little did I appreciate that he would turn out to be my sponsor on a journey of personal renewal: renewal by looking at my faith through the lens of someone who did not grown up with the traditional Baltimore Catechism answers. Who wanted to ask the questions of faith and the Church that I accepted as “that’s what I grew up with.”
Together my RCIA friend and I would read the next Sunday’s gospel each Monday night for close to seven months, and then discuss its personal meaning. Several powerful spiritual exchanges followed. One evening the conversation took us to Mark’s Gospel and the question put to Jesus about “which is the first of the Commandments.” I am no theologian or Scripture scholar, but I found myself trying to answer that question in a personal letter I wrote to him during our retreat on Holy Saturday. To paraphrase what I wrote: The Lord loves you as you are. Like the way you love your wife and son. Unconditionally. He wants to be a part of your lives. Let him in and keep him close. Even when we fail, God is there…waiting for us. Put him first. If we try to keep him close, then treating others the way we want to be treated will surely follow.
—Bill Burke serves as a Regional Director in the Advancement office of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin provinces of the Society of Jesus. Bill and his wife, Colleen, have two daughters.