July 12, 2015

July 12, 2015

Even though I’ve told myself that I’m not going to watch much reality television, I got hooked on a short series on this summer called “The Island.”  On this show, 14 American men were sent to a remote island without much of anything: no food or water, no matches, etc.  They had to survive together for 4 weeks.  Nine made it all the way through.  This last Monday was the final episode.  Of course, it included the guys talking about what they had learned/what they take away from the experience of their big survival adventure.  This included things like persevering over obstacles, not taking things for granted (like food), and reminders for them how blessed [my term] their lives are, and how they realize more how important their families are to them.  Actually, the title for this final episode was “What Matters Most.”

What matters most.

Last week talked about being a prophet and what it means to be a prophet—to be called and sent by God to proclaim His Word.  There is a similar theme in our Scriptures today as well.  As I said before, each of us, through our baptism, is called to be a prophet.  This might seem daunting to us.  It certainly must have seemed that way to the 12 Apostles.  As much as they loved and trusted Jesus, I can imagine them thinking, “Wait. He wants us to take nothing but a walking stick to go out to people who might not even accept or welcome us, and to go and actually heal sickness and drive out demons?” 

And then there’s poor Amos.  [As a little background, many known as prophets and seers back then were in the king’s court and would “prophesy” only what the king wanted to hear.  Many others went around basically as prophets for hire, giving prophecies in exchange for payment.]  The prophet Amos (who was neither of these) is in Bethel, which the ruler there made a place of idol worship.  Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, is trying to get rid of Amos for challenging this.  He basically tells Amos, “Go and sell your message somewhere else because you’re annoying and we ain’t buying what you’re selling.  NIMBY.”  But Amos is like, “Man, this wasn’t even my idea.”  God gave him this mission, however daunting and unlikely this prophetic vocation seemed.

Again, each of us, through our baptism (and Confirmation), is called to be a prophet.  It might seem daunting; we likely feel ill-equipped; we may rather prefer to do something else.  But this brings us back to what is most important, what matters most—as it would have for Amos; as it would have for the 12 Apostles.  And what matters most is who we are in God.  No matter who we think we are or what we think we’re about, what matters most is who we are in God.

This is opened up for us in a beautiful way in the letter to the Ephesians.  We hear that God has blessed us in Christ, chosen us before the foundation of the world, and destined us for adoption.  In Him we have redemption and forgiveness and the riches of His grace.  In Him we were also chosen to exist for the praise of His glory.  And we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

When I was at the Steubenville youth conference a couple weeks ago, I saw something that I’ve never seen before.  After Eucharistic Adoration on Saturday evening, kids were running to get to confession—not because they wanted to get it over with but because they couldn’t wait.  Having encountered the loving presence of Christ and being recommitted to living for Him, they were running—past the pizza—in order to experience Christ’s healing and re-creating grace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  (When I got to the chapel, I told them, “Don’t start without us.”)  I related this story to my spiritual director, and he asked, “What is it that YOU’RE running toward? And what is it that you have to run past?”  In other words, what matters most?

We were chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world to be holy—set apart for a purpose, for God’s service.  It’s not that we’ve earned it; it’s God’s plan for us from the beginning.  As Fr. Robert Barron has said on this, what matters is not what we choose, but that we have been chosen by God.  Ultimately our life is not our own, and when that sinks in everything changes. 

14 Americans went to a deserted island to survive.  One regular guy was sent to Bethel (which means “House of God”) to remind God’s people who they are.  12 Apostles were sent out to preach repentance—that is, a change of mind and heart—and to show through wondrous deeds that came from a power outside of themselves that the Kingdom of God was finally at hand for them, and was centered on Christ.

We are called to participate in the greatest adventure there is, and one that can start right at home, at work, at school: we have the mission to make God known/to make God’s love known/to make God’s mercy and salvation known.  It may seem daunting, but really it starts with the simple witness of our own Christian lives, which starts when we take to heart what matters most: that we’re possessed by God, that we’re adopted to Himself through Christ, and in this, and in His grace, we have all we need.  From our encounter with Christ in the Eucharist, we go and announce the Gospel of the Lord, the Gospel of salvation.