theROCK

Witness for or against God

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I have an intense internal drive for justice. I have always been someone who strives to see justice done in all things and for all people. And when I witness or hear about acts of injustice, I am filled what a deep sense of outrage.

This visceral drive for justice is what helps me witness to the Jesus who flips tables in the temple court and chastises the religious authorities for their hypocrisy. It makes me a strong witness for our God who is a God of justice. But when left unchecked or not filtered through God’s lens of mercy and charity, this drive for justice can also make me a counter-witness. In my flippancy or antagonistic turn-of-phrase, I can end up turning people away from Christ, rather than toward Him.

The first reading for today speaks to this very idea of being a witness for or a witness against God. In who we are and how we behave as Christians, we have the power to draw people closer to God, to foster a desire in them to know Christ, or we can turn them off entirely. We can be shepherds who scatter the sheep, or we can be united to Christ our Shepherd who draws all sheep safely to himself.

As we continue growing in intentional discipleship as a parish, it is as important to talk about the ways we serve as counter-witnesses as it is to discuss the ways we positively witness to Christ. For so many people, the reason they have strayed from the Church or refuse to consider joining is less about Her teachings and more about Her members. So this week, I challenge all of us to spend some time pondering these questions: How am I positively witnessing to Christ in the world? How might I be, in word or deed, acting as a counter witness and turning people away from Him?

Trust in the Mission

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Living in the age we do, with all its technology and modern convenience, Jesus’ summoning the twelve, at least for me, is a little hard to swallow. It’s hardly the alluring advertisement for evangelization and disciple-making candidates! No food, no money, just a walking stick and sandals! Not even a second shirt! But if you dig a bit deeper, you hear that “Jesus gave them authority…” Read: Jesus gave them the tools they needed. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the first disciples—fishermen, tax collectors—all ordinary folks. We are all called to be disciple-makers. What the gospel tells us is in order to become that, we need to divest ourselves of what keeps us from sharing the Good News. When we do that, the Lord equips us with what we need, just like Amos, again an ordinary person—a shepherd and arborist—who the Lord sent forward to ministry. And just like the apostles, God meets us where we are, gives us the tools we need, and sends us to be his hands and feet and voice. “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet, but yours.” (Teresa of Avila) As we walk with our walking stick and sandals, let us pay particular attention to how we can be Christ visible in the world. How will we let the Lord meet us where we are? Where will we be his hands, his feet, his eyes, his compassion in the world?

Fear and Trust

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In 2014, my son went backpacking in Alaska. He had a satellite device that periodically sent me text messages saying, “Everything is fine in Alaska, wish you were here,” and gave his location so I could follow his progress on a map.

The first evening of his hike I attended Cor Jesu at St. Robert where I turned off my phone. After Mass we went for a bite to eat. I got home about 11:00 PM and turned on my phone. To my horror, it said, “Something’s gone wrong in Alaska, call for help.” The message was an hour old and I felt  like I had let him down by turning my phone off. My heart started to race.

I called and found a rescue party was on the way but It would be hours before we would know anything. I was terrified. My heart was pounding as I sat in front of my computer looking at the map of their hike. They had tried to cross the Teklanika River several times, but each time they returned to shore. What had gone wrong? Had someone been swept downstream? I tried to pray but I couldn’t. My fears overcame my prayer and I returned to the computer screen.

Eventually, I realized there was nothing I could do, and I again tried to pray. My prayer was different this time. It wasn’t just for the welfare of my son, it was also for strength and courage to deal with whatever I would have to deal with. Peace came over me, and I was actually able to sleep for a few hours. 

When I awoke, I found out that a rescue party had found them and they were on their way out, but their condition was still unknown. A few more hours of waiting were in store for me, but now I had the strength and faith that God would be there for us no matter what the outcome.

That night, God taught me that faith can and will win out over fear. This is the lesson Job learns in the first reading today and the lesson the disciples learn, or are at least taught, in the Gospel. Jesus is always with us, just like he was in that boat, and so we need not fear. What he asks is for us to have faith and trust in him. That doesn’t mean the result will always be what we are hoping for, but it does ensure that God will go with us each step of the way, providing all the strength, courage, and hope we will need to carry on. For me, the story ended happily, but I know had it not, God would have carried me through whatever had happened.

Posted by Kurt Peot

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