Tag Archives: Mission

What’s The Real Goal?

I just read a post about how (supposedly) Christians are killing Christianity. The post largely claimed that it is due to the hypocrisy of many people who claim the Christian title, but do not live Christian lives. The ultimate problem with the article is that it suggested that Christianity has been, at various times, a respected belief system and moral philosophy, and is no longer. It went on to suggest things Christians can do in order to make Christianity a respected belief system again. I do not disagree with the claim that many Christians do not live according to Christian teachings, and this is part of the problem. The problem I have with the article is actually that its writer is missing an important point. Jesus never said that, as His followers, we would be respected. In fact, He said we should expect to be discredited, mocked, and persecuted for our belief.

I do, however, agree with much of what the writer of the article suggested. His suggestions were as follows:

1: “Stop focusing on your position in life, and concern yourself with Christ’s position in your life.”

I would absolutely agree with this point, and I have had to relearn it many times. However, I have never thought of it in terms of making Christianity, or the Church more respected. The point is to make sure Jesus Christ is respected, and respect for His Church will follow.

2: “Realize that Christ is distinct from any other cultural influence or person.”

He goes on to explain that Christ, and therefore Christian philosophy, is outside of any cultural influence, whether that be popular media, politics, local, or the life of one’s particular church/parish. I’m not entirely sure I agree. Jesus inserted Himself into a particular culture in a particular place and time. He promised before His ascension that He would always be with us. That means that He is always involved in our culture in our place and time. He is not attached to it, and He is not influenced by it, but He is aware of it, and He does use it because He is directly involved in each of our lives. Furthermore, it’s a simple fact that there are distinct aspects of our culture that are in line with Christian philosophy, and distinct aspects that are opposed to it. I would agree that Christ is distinct from all of it in that He, and by extension, we can use all of these aspects to complete His work.

3: “Do not try to fit Christ into your culture. Make Christ your culture.”

Christians have literally never done this. It is impossible. This implies that it is possible to live entirely outside of one’s culture. What is most important is to make Christ the center of one’s life, and to structure everything else around that center. For example, Christian poets have used pagan imagery (like the phoenix) to express Christ’s beauty and greatness. Furthermore, Jesus Himself did not live outside of His culture. It was His mission to be a part of the lives of sinners in order to redeem them. That meant doing the things that “normal” people do. As Christ’s witnesses, it is our job to bring Jesus into our culture to transform it; it is not our job to take ourselves out of it.

4: “Stop looking at how “church” can better other people’s lives and look at how your life does not line up in obedience to Christ and repent.  Scripture is not a window you use to look out at other people and judge them, Scripture is a mirror showing us how God wants to transform us into the image of his Son.”

I’m not sure how much I need to expand on this because I think it really says all it needs to. I think I would just add that, particularly from a Catholic standpoint, we simply don’t spend enough time studying Scripture or actually listening rather than talking when we pray. I would also say that it’s important to keep in mind that your pastor or priest really isn’t the ultimate authority, and it’s important to know the Scriptures, but it’s also important to know Church history and tradition.

5: “We need to model our lives after Christ, not the cultural expectations of other influences.”

I would also agree with this, but it’s easier said than done. It inherently means we will be seen as strange because Jesus was seen as strange in His own place and time. It does often mean going against popular opinion. It means forgiving the unforgivable. It means giving and expecting nothing in return. It means praying for those who have offended you. It means making and staying friends with people you vehemently disagree with. It means being patient with frustrating people. It means praying for people who don’t deserve even that. People see that and are often perplexed because they have never experienced God’s mercy. This is how we live it. It doesn’t mean we’ll be perfect at it, but we have to try.

6: I am paraphrasing here, but his final point was that we need to make sure that we are following the true Christ, and not a skewed version of Him.

Jesus makes plain who He is in the Gospels, but also through the witness of the prophets, the various writers of the Old Testament, the Apostles, the Saints throughout history, and His faithful followers today. By “faithful” I here mean those who are committed to an authentic relationship with Him as their Friend, Savior, Lord, and God. To sustain this relationship we must read Scripture, we must pray, and again, as I am writing as a Catholic, we must take part in the sacraments that He has given to us.

As I said, I mostly agree with what the original writer said. The flaw, however, is that he is putting forth these points in order to make Christianity a respected mode of living. It doesn’t matter if our faith is respected. It likely never will be. As I have mentioned many times before, there are parts in the world where it puts one’s life in jeopardy to be Christian. In many cases in our own country we face, at best, rolling eyes, and at worst, scorn and ridicule, and occasionally, violence. Our purpose is not to make our way of living appear respectable. The Church is God’s Church no matter what, and though its members are flawed, the Church itself is holy because Christ the Head is holy. Our only goal is to help people come to know God’s love for them personally, and to work on ourselves to become the holy people God wants us to be so we can, with His help, make it home to Heaven.

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Do Whatever He Tells You

At the wedding of Cana, Mary tells Jesus that the hosts have run out of wine. This is the moment when he performs his first miracle. He doesn’t do it totally on his own, though. He allows some servants to help. His mother tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” This is often easier said than done. Sometimes God asks us to do pretty crazy things. Often, I think, it’s a test of what we’re willing to do, rather than what we’re able to do.

I was just finishing up my morning prayer before we headed up to Maine yesterday, and a scripture reading from that was when Paul says, “…it is when I am weak that I am strong,” talking about how God uses our weaknesses to accomplish his plans. This reminded me of the opening of the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is called by the Lord to be his prophet, but he protests, saying that he couldn’t possibly because he is too young and doesn’t really know how to speak well.

Before Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, he tells his disciples two things. He tells them to go and spread the Gospel, and he promises that he will always be with them. I imagine that the prospect of trying to get this message out to the world was a bit intimidating. Without knowing how things would turn out, it would seem as if Jesus picked the first twelve Apostles out at random. They got the message out, though, and two thousand years later, I’m writing about it halfway across the world.

They didn’t have internet. They didn’t have the printing press. They had their feet, their love for Jesus, and word of mouth. On top of those difficulties, they certainly didn’t have the freedom of religion that we enjoy in most first world countries. Countless Christians died for their faith, and still do die for their faith.

Yesterday I had a conversation with my godfather. I asked him why it might be that it’s taking so long to find a way for me to be formally consecrated to Jesus. He told me something I hadn’t really thought about. I’ve written about how I still have some insecurities. I thought my hangup was that I’ve been too nervous. My prayer lately has been, “Lord, yeah, this does freak me out a little, but just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.”

My godfather told me that this wasn’t my issue. My issue was that, for one thing, I was being impatient, and for another, I was too invested in one corner of the world. In other words, my priest had told me to look into carmelite spirituality, so I’ve been exclusively looking into that. I realized one other thing before I got up today, too. I’m not very good at listening. I live a noisy life. I’m constantly listening to music, or trash talking with my dad, or yapping with my mom, or playing D&D and laughing with my brother and friends. When I do pray, I talk a lot, and forget to listen.

Luckily God is adaptable, and he uses song lyrics and random one-liners to tell me what I need to hear a lot of times. I woke up with the chorus of “Grace Got You” by Mercy Me stuck in my head today. In my head, that translated to, “I am still here, and I’m listening.” Still, I know I need to find our silence. Maybe then I’ll be able to figure out exactly where I need to go and what I need to do.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Make Use Of Your Magic

I’ve spent many hours over the past 2 or 3 days trying to figure out if there was some kind of volunteer work I could do from home or close by in town. I don’t drive so I didn’t want my work to end up being inconvenient to my parents or anyone else who would be willing to drive me. What made things even more complicated was that my disability makes it impossible to do many hands-on tasks that I would sincerely love to do. I still haven’t found anything that’s close enough or even doable.

In Luke 14 Jesus says to a man who invited him to a banquet that he should not invite rich neighbors or friends and family to his lavish dinner party. Instead he should invite the poor, the lame, etc. His rich friends can and probably will repay him, but the poor can’t pay him back. If he takes care of them though, it’s out of love and compassion and he will be “repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

I read this the other day and it really struck me. I want to help people because I should. Something I figured out while I was searching was that if you want to volunteer you have to pick a problem and a cause and focus on those and those alone. There are a lot of things that bother me, but a few of them are related. Needless hate and violence really bothers me. Apathy is likewise a big problem that is often overlooked. I remember hearing a story about a man who decided to commit suicide. He lived in a large city and his note said, “I’m going to the bridge. If one person smiles at me or even acknowledges me, I won’t jump.” The story did not have a happy ending.

I remember when we went down to Georgia for my graduation/18th birthday trip. We were spending a night in Charleston, South Carolina and we were wandering around trying to find a place to eat– obvious tourists. A young man noticed us and asked us if we needed any help in a very friendly voice. I don’t remember if we said yes or no, but I do remember that we were slightly in shock. We weren’t used to complete strangers being that nice to us.

Ironically, people often seem to care more about people oversees than own next door neighbors. There is poverty, hunger and homelessness right here in the U.S. I’m not saying our problems are more important than anyone else’s. However, I do think that solutions could start at home. I love the idea of paying it forward. If everyone made an individual effort to make one other person’s life better, that person might do the same for someone else. In a literal sense, I think we can spread love; if we try hard enough, we can spread it all over the globe.

Love and compassion can save lives. It trumps greed and selfishness and it brings people together instead of pushing them farther apart. I think the best thing is to do what you can.  If you can write, then write and inundate the internet with the shared message of love. If you can travel to foreign countries and build houses for people, do that because that seriously needs to be done. If you can sing, then belt it and make sure people hear that love will win.

I think sometimes people are guilted into inaction. If you’re not out on the front lines of a particular organization’s effort than you’re a terrible person. I definitely think that this kind of mentality is harmful. Every person has a different situation and a different skill set that can be useful for making this world a better place. The trick is to figure out how to put those skills to use. It’s an opportunity to be creative and challenge yourself while doing something wonderful.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!