Grow Up: Become a Child

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“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.” (Micah 5:2)

How often does the wisdom of God prove to be radically different from the wisdom of mankind?

A good illustration of this is in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. At first, Jesus’ disciples approach him because they are hungry. And, seeing their hunger, Jesus deliberately intensifies it by speaking of the “the true bread from heaven… which comes down and gives life to world.” This bread is better than the manna that fed their ancestors for years in the desert. This is the only bread one ever needs to eat. Naturally, His disciples are sold and salivating – resolutely declaring, “Lord, give us this bread always!”

And, after rising to a crescendo, with the next few lines Jesus loses more disciples than any other time of his earthly life. He says, “I am the bread of life… unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life within you.”

What the disciples expected to get was not what Jesus was prepared to give. He was prepared to give something much greater. Likewise, throughout the whole Bible, what God tells His people to do often baffles them just as much as it baffles us nowadays. What our natural gut-instinct tells us will be effective is often the opposite of the solution the Lord gives. And doesn’t this shock us every time?

Just look at the very life of Jesus. Mother Teresa has great words that are pertinent here:

“You know, [we] don’t understand. Jesus came into the world with the most important message [and task] of all time and he had only thirty-three short years to communicate [and accomplish] it. And he spent thirty years doing nothing!” (I Loved Jesus in The Night, pg. 72)

Combine that thought with the fact that the climax of this “redemption” – this “Good News” – was to come through the brutal death of the protagonist and we throw up our hands in puzzlement. This plan for saving the world from all of its problems and redeeming creation itself is just simply not how we, as human beings, would go about things. We would come in with power, wealth, talent and a huge conglomerate wad of “the best the world has to offer.” God (in this world at least) reveals His glory in more magnificent ways.

Lloyd Greenhaw, a confident, jovial, shoot-from-the-hip, Texas rancher-type who leads international missions for Renewal Ministries all over the world, puts it like this: “We live in an upside-down world.” If you want to save your life, lose it. If you want life, you must die. If you want to be rich, become poor. If you want to be filled, be emptied. The list goes on. Just one look at the Beatitudes (Matt. 5) reveals how God’s idea of blessedness is a 180-degree spin from ours.

So, now the question: what does this mean for us as disciples?

Surely, we want to be great disciples. We want to produce fruit. We have (or we should have) a fountain of magnanimous aspirations boiling over within our hearts. Pope John Paul II recognized this when, in addressing young adults throughout the world, he said,

“It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives… the refusal to allow yourself to be grounded down by mediocrity.” (Prayer Vigil at World Youth Day 2000)

We want to be great and we should want to be great. But, how do we achieve greatness?

Jesus answered this for us. “Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4). And our hearts are pierced with bewilderment and wonder once again. How can this be possible? Because the ways of God are not the ways of man.

The disciple is not one who has just given some measly intellectual assent to a set of ideas, but one who has received the “spirit of sonship” so that now…

“When we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom. 8:15-17)

Brothers and sisters, we are sons and daughters of God. Through God we are no longer slaves, but sons and daughters and, therefore, heirs to everything He has to give us (Gal. 4:6). This means two things.

First, once again, that we are born to be great. We should hunger for greatness, for glory and for producing magnificent fruit. Notice that when the disciples asked Jesus about how to achieve greatness (Matt. 18:1), He didn’t rebuke them – He answered their question. To not long for glory and for greatness is to not recognize the reality of who we are: namely, children of God.

Secondly, if we want to be great (and if we want to be great disciples), we must come, as children with empty hands, to our loving Father, being nourished by Him and Him alone. We must be made humble. We must become small. We must realize that the only way to have a “big impact” is to be totally present to the little and insignificant things we have to do at each moment. That in the very smallest things (like this moment right now), we meet the very greatest (the infinity of God’s presence).

In this way, we live as children – constantly and forever living in the presence of our Father, allowing His will to guide every inch of our lives. It is an eternal paradox of that “upside-down world” that if we want to be great, we must be small. It is in our smallness that we can rest more firmly in the embrace and power of our Father who loves us. How else could a woman that looks like this change so many hearts?

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This is our privilege and our call – that you and I are each a child of God.

Brothers and sisters, let us live in that truth. Let us abandon ourselves totally to Him, allowing Him to purify us, in His Love, into the pure gold we are created to be. Let us trust our Father. Let us hope in Him. Let us love Him by a complete gift of ourselves. There is no other path for the disciple to take.

Scriptural postscript: pray with Sirach 3:17-24; Psalm 50:15-17; Micah 2-4; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

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Developing a Heart for God’s People

Over the past few weeks, Joey McCoy and Pete Burak had the opportunity to participate on the EWTN television show, Crossing the Goal.  The normal hosts temporarily stepped aside to let four members of FOCUS and the i.d.916 guys run the show.  The links to the first two shows are below:

Why the New Evangelization?

 Win – Developing a Heart for God

The video below is the third episode on Developing a Heart for God’s People.  Visit http://www.crossingthegoal.com or http://www.ewtn.com to learn more about the show and the schedule for future episodes.

Evangelii Gaudium – “The Joy of the Gospel”

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Pope Francis has just released an apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, which means “The Joy of the Gospel.”  Over the next few weeks, we will examine the document to pull out the key points and see how they relate particularly to young adults.   In the meantime, we highly encourage everyone to read it since the Holy Father has continued the focus of his predecessors on the New Evangelization.  Here click here to read Evangelii Gaudium in its entirety.

Here are some links for initial commentary.

A Summary of Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel): Pope Francis’ First Apostolic Exhortation by Kevin Cotter

Pope Francis’ new document, Evangelii Gaudium: 9 things to know and share by Jimmy Akin

True Love – Part II

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*This is the second part of an article written by Peter Herbeck entitled True Love.  To read Part I click here*

What the Church Teaches

The teaching of the Catholic Church is presented clearly and with genuine compassion in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2357-2359):

“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Here the Church is teaching the truth in love. She is fulfilling the command of the Lord to “love your neighbor as yourself.” She knows that she must communicate the objective truth about human sexuality and marriage as an expression of her love for persons with homosexual attractions. Homosexual acts are described as “intrinsically disordered.” Note, it does not say persons with homosexual attractions are in themselves intrinsically disordered. They are, in the eyes of the Church, children of God, who bear the image of God, persons with inherent dignity who are called and destined to live with God forever.

It is the homosexual act that is intrinsically disordered because it violates the objective goods or the essential truth of the sexual act. The sexual act is, by nature, in its essence, the one flesh union of two persons, which is open to life. As Dr. Janet Smith puts it, “sex is for babies and bonding.” It is ordered to reproduction and union which are both made possible by “sexual complementarity.” Homosexual acts fail to recognize the essential, objective, unchanging truth about the purpose of the sexual act.

The Church recognizes that marriage is an institution that the Church did not create. Every society known to man has recognized marriage as an institution that unites children with their parents. It is the fundamental building block of human civilization. The Church has no power to change its teaching on homosexual activity or marriage. She didn’t create or design the fundamental purpose for either one; she simply recognizes the intrinsic meaning of both.

What motivates the Church’s teaching is love. There is no hate, bigotry or animus toward homosexual persons. Certainly, there are some in the church who are bigots, but that isn’t the source of the Church’s teaching. It’s the same love the Church expresses when she speaks against premarital sex, masturbation, prostitution, adultery, fornication, and pornography. Each one of these acts, in some way, suppresses the truth about the meaning, purpose and design of human sexuality.

So it is with tough love that the Church passes on to us the teaching of the Scriptures, as well as the truth revealed in the natural law. To fail to teach it, or to promote what is contrary to it, is to “rejoice in what is wrong,” and to promote a “destructive lie.”

My Truth

Finally, what makes the Church’s teaching such a challenge in these days is the cultural dominance of what Pope Benedict XVI described as the “dictatorship of relativism.” It is essentially the rejection of any standard of truth outside my own personal experience or subjective understanding. The only truth that is decisive, especially in the sexual realm, is “my truth.” The ultimate standard or measure of truth is my own personal choice, what I determine to be true for myself.

This is a game the Church cannot play. It’s a lie. It’s not only the suppression of the truth about the meaning of human sexuality; it is a form of idolatry. To live in the truth is to be rightly related to reality. It means to live in the real world, not the world I create for myself. The reason we have become so confused about things that are so obvious is that we have decided to shape reality according to our own design. We don’t want God’s design for reality; we want reality on our terms. We want to be gods.

This is the root of our confusion and current struggle. The only way out is repentance. We must turn again, wholeheartedly toward God. We must welcome reality on his terms, to humbly and gratefully receive his design for human life, and to live in His truth with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. It’s the only way to love. It is true love.

What is it?

Every culture, with no exception, teaches and bestows something. By distilling the wisdom of ages past, it instills a way of life into subsequent generations saying, “This is what is valuable; this is what lasts: make your life about this.” So it is with our current culture. It holds up many lifestyles and pursuits as worthwhile, noble and purpose-filled and, thereby, makes them attractive. One of these would definitely be that of Tom Brady. In many ways, his life is an icon of success.

But are these goals always really satisfying and ultimately worthwhile? I think this video hints at the fact that a lot of what our culture points to leaves us, in the end, saying (like Brady does), “God, there’s gotta be more than this!” We seem to thirst for something for which our culture cannot give us drink.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In light of the fact that our culture can point to drink that doesn’t satisfy, it is always good to examine our life – really bring our life before the jury – and examine what we are living for. We can easily slip into living for what our culture (the stew we are stewed in) teaches us to live for. Shouldn’t we take time to pull back and make sure we are living for what is meaningful, worthwhile and lasting?

This trajectory cuts right through to the ultimate question: what is the meaning of life? Well, what is it? Whatever it is – wouldn’t we want to live for that and nothing less?

Great Commentary on Recent Pope Francis’ Interviews

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Both of Pope Francis’ recent interviews have caused significant waves through the Catholic Church and the secular media.  Nearly everyone has an opinion on his perspective, style, and content.   Below is a link to an article written by Carl E. Olson for The Catholic World Report which presents a very balanced and thoughtful look at the Holy Father’s comments.  Feel free to respond to the article in the comments section or under the original article.

Pope Francis: The Good, the Baffling, and the Unclear by Carl E. Olson

Bishop Michael Byrnes live tonight!

POPE GREETS AUXILIARY BISHOP BYRNES OF DETROIT DURING MEETING WITH BISHOPS FROM MICHIGAN ON 'AD LIMINA' VISITS TO VATICAN

Tonight, we are excited to welcome Auxiliary Bishop Michael Byrnes, from the Archdiocese of Detroit, to our October Disciples’ Night.  The title of his talk is What Next? Deeper Conversion.  We will be going live at 7:35 pm EST.  To watch the video click here or copy and paste link below.

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/id916