i.d.entity Crisis (Part 2 of 2)

Conversione-di-san-Paolo-Caravaggio

(Click here for Part I)

So, this is what the Church is and who we are as her members… in theory. But why doesn’t this description of the Catholic Church match what we actually see? Why don’t we seem like “fools in love?” Why aren’t we making “a scene?” Perhaps it is because we as a Church have lost sight of how the walk of a disciple begins and from where it finds its roots – an encounter.

“God is not some topic to study, but a person to meet” (Ralph Martin, Called to Holiness, pg. 9.) This assertion is substantiated in crystal-clear fashion by simply reading the Bible, where one repeatedly finds accounts of people’s encounters with a living God. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, to name a few, had a definite moment when the Lord “passed them by” (go here to see Dr. Mary Healy’s terrific insight on this phrase). It is only after such an encounter that their lives were forever changed into a holy recklessness for God.

Why would it be any different for us? Scripture is not a collection of nice stories, but God Himself, presented to us in His Word, showing us how we should live. Thus, taking Scripture at its word (pun intended), suggests to us the question: if we do not meet the Lord, how can we follow Him? In order to follow anybody you have to meet them!

The Christian walk must be more than just encouraging one another with good ideas about ‘living better.’ It is about power. That dynamic and ever-new power of God changing our hearts and moving our lives from the inside out. If we have not been touched by the white-hot power of God, then how can the fires of our hearts burn with love for Him and His people? We don’t need cheerleading, we need the very life of God within us.

This ‘encounter’ element is the foundational line to a drumbeat Pope Francis has been sounding throughout his pontificate, and before. Check out his response to this first question (as well as the whole interview):

Notice how then-Fr. Bergolio mentioned this ‘encounter’ as a work of the Spirit. It is a curious thing that the Apostles themselves, after Jesus had ascended, had no idea how to be disciples. After spending three full years with Jesus Himself (imagine that…) they still hid in a room, shaking in their boots, having no idea what direction to go in and how to live out all He had taught them. Indeed Jesus anticipated this because he told them to wait there until they received something. Then, that something happened.

That something was Pentecost. They received the Holy Spirit, the Person whom Jesus died and rose to give us. It was an encounter with the Spirit which “transformed them into courageous witnesses to Christ” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, #87) that catapulted them out of their concealed sanctuary. It was this baptism in the Holy Spirit that freed men and women to be missionary disciples.

Once again, how can it be any different for us? If we are in desperate need of an encounter with God, of a personal relationship with Our Savior, how can we not need the reality which makes that relationship “come alive” – our own personal Pentecost? If you listen to the popes over the last 50 years, if would seem it is what we need more than anything, both individually and collectively as a Church:

 “More than once we have asked ourselves what the greatest needs of the Church are… what is the primary and ultimate need of our beloved and holy Church? We must say it with holy fear because, as you know, this concerns the mystery of the Church, her life: this need is the Spirit… the Church needs her eternal Pentecost; she needs fire in her heart, words on her lips, a glance that is prophetic.” (Pope Paul VI, General Audience, Nov. 29 1972)

How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts. (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #261)

Once again, it becomes smolderingly clear that the life of a missionary disciple is not about a worldview, principles or intellectual assent so much as it is a life lived, literally, “in Christ” through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, in conclusion, if this is what the Church is, then this is what we seek to be in i.d.916 – a community of missionary disciples. A body of men and women who have encountered the Lord and thereby “walk by the Spirit,” seeking to radically follow Him on His mission to all peoples.

O Lord, may it be so!

Advertisements

i.d.entity: Community of Missionary Disciples (Part 1 of 2)

Jesus-disciplesWhat is the Church?

There are whole courses on this topic and many ways to approach the question. There are the usual meanings about the ontological and existential nature of the Church that discuss allusions to the Body (1 Cor. 12), the Bride (Rev. 19) and the Vineyard (John 15). But recently we received a more business-oriented, less symbolical “job description” of the Church from our earthly shepherd, Papa Francesco.

In his recently released Evangelii Gaudium, which is simply the Holy Father sharing what is most particularly on his heart and mind right now for all his spiritual children, Pope Francis tells us what the Church is and what she goes forth as (especially the Church as a reality here on Earth):

The Church… is a community of missionary disciples (#24)

That’s what we are: disciples who share, first, our lives with one another as adopted children of God and, secondly, our mission of bringing the love of Jesus to others.

We are a community. We share our lives together; joyously and determinedly walking side-by-side in seeking the outcast and yearning toward our “inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading” (1Peter 1:4). We are a fellowship that “goes forth” and a family of brothers and sisters living in union together with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This means we ought to “devote [ourselves] to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers”, even day by day “attending temple together and breaking bread in [our] homes, partaking of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:42,46). We need one another and we need to live our lives in a way that substantiates this fact.

We are missionary. As members of the Church we, “who were dead through our trespasses,” have been made “alive together with Christ.”  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are now in the Son. If so, we now share in their mission. We are on the great “co-mission” with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to “go make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). What did Jesus come to do? “To save and seek the lost” (Lk 19:10); to “save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). For this reason, “mere administration can no longer be enough”, but we must be “permanently in a state of mission” (Evangelii Gaudium #25). We have to have a constant, pulsing missionary spirit that is ever ready to witness to the love of Christ and sees everything in the light of bearing fruit for the Kingdom.

We are disciples. We are ‘learners’ who sit at the feet of the Master. We are warriors who have pledged our total, unreserved allegiance to a King. We have been “crucified in Christ” so that we no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in us; and the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20). And so, our lives are over, in a sense. He is our Lord and we must give ourselves totally to him. This is what it means to be His disciples.

This community of missionary disciples can be summed up in a line from John Mark McMillan’s song “Heart Bleeds”:

Like fools in love, we’re bound to make a scene.

This is what the Church is. And, as part of the larger body, this is what i.d.916 is as well. Whatever contribution we make can only be centered on our identity as a community of missionary disciples. Let us get on our knees before the Lord that this might be a reality.

(Click here for Part 2)

‘Oceans’ Full of Angels

C.S. Lewis said that two things which cannot be found in hell are music and silence. (The Screwtape Letters)

Josef Pieper chimes in, “… to the extent that it is more than mere entertainment of intoxicating rhythmic noise, music is alone in creating a particular kind of silence… within which, when things come about happily, a reality can dawn which ranks higher than music.” (pg. 55-56, Only the Lover Sings)

George MacDonald agrees saying “Heaven is the region where there is only life, and therefore all that is not music is silence.” (pg. 113, George MacDonald: An Anthology)

Peter Kreeft concludes, “Heaven is both silent, like the contemplative mystic, and full of sound, like a dance or a symphony.”

This all jives with what is recorded about the end times, when the redeemed will be awed to silence “for about a half an hour” (Rev. 8:1) and then “sing a new song before the throne” (Rev. 14:3.)

It would seem that most of the music in our culture today, though, doesn’t really echo that “new song.” We don’t really make much music in which God rests and perches, waiting to show Himself to us. Isn’t all of the music from, say, the Grammys produced more or less for entertainment and pleasure-seeking? In the culture at large, how foreign is the idea of music helping us access the Good? The sentiment embedded in this anecdote about Handel’s famous piece Messiah seems almost strange to us:

“When a nobleman praised Handel as to how entertaining the Messiah was, Handel replied, ‘My Lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better.’”

We make a lot of noise, but not a lot of music.

But all is not lost! Every once in while one hears something that runs contrary to this current trend. Though it isn’t perfect, I think ‘Oceans’ by Hillsong United is a good example. I could see this being sung in Heaven.

A friend recently remarked to me that the period from 6:08-6:45 in this song, where the singer, Taya Smith, begins to soar into the heights, must be something of what Heaven is like – lifting up all of oneself (mind, body, spirit, voice, emotions, etc.) in a great chorus of praise to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am instantly reminded of the great wedding feast where the music of Heaven will drench us and the glory of God will irradiate us as we sing ‘Hallelujah!’

Ergo, I once again encourage you to, at some point in the near future, set aside everything you are doing (carve out a little attentive, receptive ‘silence’), free your hands from the computer and…

1)   Read Revelation 19:6-10 to prime the pump.

2)   Simply listen to this performance, allowing God to surprise you.

3)   Pray.

(Note: Praise is universal. The Holy Father recently taught us that praise is essential to Christian life and explicitly ‘not just for Charismatics.’ So whether it’s King David, chanting monks, George Handel, Rich Mullins, Hillsong United or an off-putting amateur, God loves seeing His children “dance in front of the Lord with all [their] strength.”)

Evangelii Gaudium – “The Joy of the Gospel”

full_23681

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

Communion in Holy Things

Pope-Francis-General-Audience-April-10-2013

During his weekly audience on November 6th, Pope Francis elaborated on the purpose and importance of communion.  i.d.916 hopes to foster communion and this teaching succinctly describes an aspect of this pillar.  Below is the first paragraph of the exhortation, click here for the full version.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Last Wednesday I spoke about the communion of saints, understood as a communion among holy people, that is among us believers. Today I would like to go in depth into the other aspect of this reality: you will remember that there were two aspects: one is communion, unity, among us, and the other aspect is communion in holy things, in spiritual goods. These two aspects are closely connected; in fact, communion among Christians grows through the sharing of spiritual goods. In particular we will consider: the Sacraments, charisms and charity (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 949-953). We grow in unity, in communion, through: the Sacraments, the charisms given to each of us by the Holy Spirit, and charity.

Click here for the rest of the text.

Interesting Interview with Cardinal Dolan and Fr. Barron

Recently, Fr. Robert Barron visited Timothy Cardinal Dolan in New York City.  After celebrating Mass together, the two of them entertained some questions from the media.  The brief interview is worth watching because they both do an excellent job representing the orthodoxy of the Church while maintaining humor and good will.  Additionally, Cardinal Dolan expertly treads the fine line of challenging the media with honest yet loving answers.