Sunday, April 24, 2016

Making Disciples the Old Fashioned Way: Truth and Love

(From Left to Right--Tim, Sarah, Joe, Wesley, and Courtney.  Joe is our intern and the other are our FOCUS Team)
This week, I had an experience that brought with it a heaviness and a sadness. It's one of those instances where I should have known better, but I allowed myself to get sucked into a conversation that would only suck the life out of me. It was one of those conversations that reduces Christianity to slogans, ideologies, and to abstractions.  Immediately after I allowed myself to be part of it, I knew that by the end of it, I wouldn't feel like more of a human being, but less of one.

Today, in the Acts of the Apostles, we hear how Paul and Barnabas made a considerable number of disciples, strengthened the spirits of the disciples, and then reported to others all of the good things that God was doing.  The reading reminded me of something that I already knew, but somehow am in constant need of reminding: Only the Truth has Grace.  On the Feast of the Epiphany, we are told that the Magi, having been warned in a dream, not to return to Herod, went home by a different route. I was very struck one time when I read a commentary on that passage.  The writer basically said that sometimes we think that we are compelled to go back to Herod and to try to convince him.  But, sometimes, the answer is to go home by a different road.  Sometimes, I want to debate those who may have a skewed understanding of the Catholic life in order to beat them in the debate.  But, more often than not, I have discovered that it is better just to go home by a different route.  Why? Because only the truth has grace.  Falsehoods aren't going anywhere. They don't build anything. Only the Truth has Grace. It is better to encourage, build, and proclaim rather than to keep going back and debating what has been tried and found wanting forever.

So, I want to share with you some beautiful things that I witnessed this week. These various encounters built me up and showed me that God is doing great things.  I am not going to comment extensively upon them. I will just share the highlights.

Last Saturday, I went to a local shrine for Confession. As I neared the shrine, I noticed a student from Boston University, ahead of me. He stopped, opened his wallet, and gave a homeless woman some money. A few moments later, we sat in the line for confessions together. (Later in the week, I bumped into another student as he made his way to confession, and during this week, I had the privilege to hear the confessions of many students).

On my way home from Confession, I bumped into a young woman from Boston University (remember, this is early on a Saturday morning), who was on her way to volunteer at a pregnancy crisis center to help woman choose life.

One of the great privileges of being a priest is walking with people who are struggling in their life. In the lives of these people, I see so clearly that only the Truth has Grace.  These young people are filled with a tremendous sincerity and humility. They are not looking for a priest who will find loopholes for them. They yearn for the Truth and they yearn to live in the Truth. Perhaps one of my greatest joys as a priest is the joy of walking with someone who is struggling. I am so profoundly impressed by the humility, sincerity, and honesty that is present in people. It is almost impossible to express how joyful a thing it is to me to live in the midst of a tension that the world finds incomprehensible. Namely, there are people who come to me, because they want the Truth AND because they want to be loved. There is no dichotomy between the Truth and Love.  This week, I was blessed so many times to be a servant of Christ's Truth and His Love. It is so amazingly beautiful to be entrusted with the care of souls. It is a tremendous privilege to be trusted with the weaknesses and struggles of others and to live a friendship with these very same persons.  Pure joy.

Joe Ferme (pictured above) graduated from BU last year with a major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  Happily, instead of going off to work this year, Joe agreed (after some pressure) to give a year of service to the BU Catholic Center as our intern.  The word "intern" is misleading.  At the BU Catholic Center, the intern works non-stop to keep our programming and events on track. Like our FOCUS Missionaries, Joe has to fundraise his own salary.  So yeah, in order to survive for a year and to give himself in service to others, he has to raise his own salary. Joe--like the two interns before him--will be entering seminary in September.

Over the past few years, while I have been at BU, I have worked with missionaries from FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). There are four missionaries each year assigned to BU. They are young men and women wh
o, after graduating college, wish to serve on college campuses, helping others students to become more involved with the Church.  Two of our missionaries will be leaving at the end of this year (despite me begging them to stay).  Wesley Woods has been with us for three years and Sarah Spencer for two.  This evening, we watched a video presentation honoring Wesley and Sarah. It was basically short video testimonies from dozens of students telling Wes and Sarah how they changed their lives.  If there were two words that were used repeatedly to describe each of them, they would most definitely be "joy and love."  Wes and Sarah are models of what a missionary is.  One student after another said, "Thank you for being so joyful and for loving me." No words that I write could convey the joy and love that Wes and Sarah have brought to so many. 

It has been an incredible joy to watch these two missionaries bring Christ's love to so many people on BU's campus. There are times in life when we know that we have witnessed something special, something that belongs to God. Anybody who has watched Wes and Sarah during these past few years knows that the Holy Spirit was doing something powerful.  Some people can talk about religion and church. Wesley and Sarah made people experience the nearness of God and the love of God. Wherever they were, there was joy.  While Sarah and Wes will be leaving us, their teammates, Tim and Courtney will be remaining and will be joined by two new teammates. We look forward to the Holy Spirt continuing to work in and through them.

What we read today in the Acts of the Apostles is not something relegated to the distant past. God is still doing something. He is making disciples through the work of evangelization and friendship. He is encouraging us through the example of others. He is building up the Church and spreading the Gospel.   All of what I just mentioned happened in the course of one week.  Those are just some of the great things that have happened. There are too many beautiful and Christ driven things going on every day in the life of the Church to get too caught up in boring nonsense.  The Magi met Christ and went home a different way. They didn't go back to fight the same old battles. Only the Truth has Grace. This week, I am grateful that through the example of so many young people, I encountered Truth and that Truth most definitely has Grace.

I hope that your own faith is strengthened and renewed by hearing about some of these great people. The Acts of the Apostles is 28 Chapters long. We are Chapter 29.

No comments:

Post a Comment