This past week I have been attending the FOCUS Student Leadership Summit.
Of course now that 36 whole hours have passed since its conclusion, as my extroversion would have it, I have tentatively processed the conference. I am going to record my first thoughts about what Jesus wants to do in my heart as a result of the conference, and then revisit in a few months when I have more tangible evidence.
I pray pretty regularly. I try to attend Mass three to four times per week including Sundays, and I try to pray for an hour (but at least thirty minutes) either before or after each Mass. Usually I spend some of the time in conversation with Jesus and some of the time reading scripture and/or some other spiritual reading.
Lately, my "personal prayer" has been less of a conversation and more of me repeating "come Holy Spirit, teach me how to pray" over and over again.
This week, a FOCUS alum and I were talking and he mentioned that he'd been praying for God to send some other FOCUS alum or other holy men to help him get a men's group started at his parish.
WHAT? It almost knocked the wind out of me. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how terrible it is that I'm on my own at my parish, and complaining about how poorly catechized a lot of our parishioners are. I've even spent a lot of time thinking about ways it could be better. But have I prayed about it a single time?.... Not that I can recall. #howembarrassing
... and I call myself a Christian?!!!
It seems like such a basic truth, but it felt so radical in the moment. God wants us to ask BIG things of Him. And He wants us to pray for the specific needs we have and the specific desires of our hearts. His power is made perfect in our weakness, and I've been hiding mine from Him. I feel the need to apologize to all of my friends who sat on the other end of phone conversations with me while I went on and on complaining. And I feel the need to apologize to Jesus for not trusting that He can and will help me carry the weight of evangelizing my parish. Jesus desires to keep His promises to me, and He wants me to ask Him to do HUGE things in my life, and then be docile to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to move.
The other conviction I came away with was that discipleship is the only way to change the world for Jesus Christ. I have been convicted of this many times before and I'm sure I will be reminded many times in the future. If I'm not doing discipleship, I'm not succeeding as a Christian. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, "to evangelize is to teach the art of living." Discipleship takes that a step further and invites us to teach others how to teach the art of living as well. Jesus says in Matthew's Gospel, "you will know them by their fruit."
Since I left FOCUS in the last three years, I have invested intentionally in just one person and she is not currently investing in anyone. To cut myself a little slack, things move MUCH more slowly in parish life than they do on college campuses. But this is still no excuse. There are souls in my parish and outside of my parish who have never been invited to make Jesus the center of their lives. There are lives waiting to be transformed by love that steps down from Heaven to die on a cross for our sins.
Father Mike Schmitz quoted St. Francis Xavier as saying, "How many souls are in Hell because you have more learning than you have love?"
How many more books will I read before I get off my ass and start putting the Great Commission into action?
Twelve disciples, in 1983 years, made over a billion Catholics. But what if there had been thirteen?
If I make two disciples, and they make two, and they make two, and so on, in 20 years over one million people will know Jesus and know how to make Him known. But what if I make three?
St. Francis Xavier, pray for us!