Terence P. Jeffrey: Is Illegal Immigration Moral?August 1, 2018
Saint of the Day for August 2: St. Eusebius of Vercelli (c. 300 – August 1, 371)August 2, 2018
By Marcel LeJeune, Catholic Missionary Disciples
Several of my friends and family are what you could describe as high-achievers. Still, some of these high-achievers cross over into being workaholics too. In conversation with one of them recently, I mentioned that even Jesus took a day of rest every week (he took the Sabbath rest very seriously). The response of my friend was that Jesus didn’t have kids. I said I think Jesus understands your problem, because he had one himself. He didn’t just have to take care of a large family, Jesus had the biggest problem ever. He had to save the world. That struck my friend deeply.
If we think about the problems in the Catholic Church today, we too can lose our perspective:
Scandals by leaders
Decline of the Church in the West
Growth in the “nones” who have no faith at all
Closing of parishes
We all need to remember that Jesus understands the problems of this world much better than we ever will. The fact is, Jesus taught us, through his life, the strategies we need to be living out, in order to fulfill his command to “go and make disciples of all nations”. It is the foundation of renewal that can fix all of our problems. But the vast majority of Catholic dioceses and parishes don’t operate through all the strategies Jesus taught us.
If you doubt this thesis, then put yourself in these 2 scenarios (and ask yourself how the average Catholic lay leader or clergy member might answer):
1 – If someone who identified as a “agnostic truth-seeker, who is open to hearing the claims of the Catholic Church” agreed to examine the Catholic Church for 1 year, in order to test out the claims of Catholicism, then how would you respond? What would you do to help this person? Be specific.
2 – If a person who just had a profound encounter with Jesus in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (which led to a conversion to Jesus for the first time) came to you and said they needed help in order to grow to Christian maturity, holiness, prayer, and mission, what would you do with them? How would you help them? Be specific.
Now, did your response to these two questions start and end with building relationships with them? Did you try to assess where they are currently at, spiritually, in order to formulate a personalized way of helping them? Would it mean a lot of listening and prayer? Would you be able to preach the kerygma effectively, invite a response, know how to form true accountability (built on trust), and form deep Christian relationships?
From my years of working with Catholic leaders and asking such questions, most fall back on programmatic responses. The first thing most would do in situation 1 is have them register for RCIA. Of course, we don’t know if that is appropriate, until we get to know them. RCIA isn’t meant for anyone who is remotely interested in exploring the Church, though it is used as such. In scenario 2, I have found most would fall back into a classroom or programmatic answer too. Get involved. Go on a retreat. Watch these videos. Join this small group. Etc.
Now, these answers may be appropriate for some, but not all, and that is the point. We can’t just plug and play with individuals. Jesus never did. He had no programs. He offered no set classes. He didn’t just meet with someone once a week at the Synagogue for study of the Torah.
Jesus did so much more.
We need to do the same.
6 Insights Into The Strategy Of Jesus To Save The World!
1 – Jesus had a problem and a plan to fix that problem. His problem was that sin broke the relationship with God and humanity. We couldn’t get into heaven and had no chance of salvation, on our own. Jesus came to fix that problem – for all of us, through all time. What a problem to have! You would think he would then start to set up a large systematized way of getting the message out to as many as he could, as quickly as he could. Because the Roman Empire could help him, maybe he needed to start traveling all over the empire to speak to large groups (like a modern-day Catholic speaker). He didn’t. He did talk to large crowds, but never sought them out. Maybe he could write letters to be read to all those he couldn’t reach? Nope. We have no evidence of him writing anything down on paper.
What did he do? He deeply invested in a few, and taught them to do the same with others, who could do the same with others – until the world was reached. This was his plan. Spiritual multiplication. He also knew how to evaluate what someone needed and then respond appropriately.
2 – Jesus valued individuals over crowds. As stated above, Jesus taught large crowds, but that wasn’t his strategy to reach others. When he really wanted to go deep with someone, he talked to them either one-on-one or in small groups. We see this with the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, Martha / Mary / Lazarus, Peter / James / John, etc.
Jesus always valued the individuals over crowds. This is because he understood that apostolic apprenticeship is the way of formation that is greater than all others. Teaching is necessary. Preaching is great. Study can help us learn. Corporate worship is part of Christian life. But, if you really want to be a transformative agent in someone’s life, then you have to spend a lot of time, effort, love, and prayer alongside someone, not merely in front of someone. Shoulder-to-shoulder and life-on-life apostolic apprenticeship is the model Jesus gave us for formation. We just aren’t doing this enough.
3 – Jesus spent time with those far from God. Another problem Jesus had was that the vast majority of folks in his day and age rejected his idea of religion and spirituality. They were either highly suspicious of his claims to be the Jewish Messiah or they came from a pagan background. When we think our culture is bad, we forget the context Jesus had to live in. Still, Jesus didn’t quickly give up on those far from God. Rather, he went to them. He talked to them. He listened to them. He challenged them to a better life. He called them to follow him.
In other words, we need to get out of our safe Christian bubbles and back to a missionary life. This should look outward, not inward. We need to ask God, in prayer, to give us his heart and eyes, so we can see how much He loves everyone around us. God wants salvation for the lost. Do we? If so, why aren’t we seeking them out? Why can’t we get uncomfortable, for the sake of the Gospel? We need to, if the mission of Jesus is to be made manifest.
4 – Jesus asked a lot of questions and listened in order to understand, not necessarily agree. I was brought into a deep knowledge of my Catholic faith through a lot of intense study. I have become one of the best apologists I know (not the best, but good). In all the years of trying to win arguments about God, Catholicism, truth, etc. I have only been able to help a handful of folks come to conversion, due to an intellectual argument. It is possible. But, in reading Scripture, I started to notice that Jesus asked more questions than he answered.
So, I decided to take on the posture of being the person who asks more questions than giving answers, and in doing so I have found a new path of fruitfulness. In fact, I have numerous conversions that have happened through relationships with others, where I ask deep questions. Questions like these.
What is the origin of humanity?
Where do you find meaning in life?
Where do you find the source of your power?
What do you think success looks like?
What are your dreams for life? What do you hope to accomplish?
What is your destiny? How do you know this?
How do you know what is true and what isn’t?
What are you willing to give your life for? What are your priorities?
What are you passionate about? What do you find yourself arguing for or against? Why?
What do you find persuasive?
How do you know right from wrong?
How do you determine how you ought to act?
Are there any universal human rights? What are they? How do we determine them?
Are some acts morally relative?
Is there anything that is universally moral?
Where do the problems of humanity come from?
What is the solution to humanity’s problems?
Start asking such questions. Listen actively. Respond according to the promptings of the Spirit. Become more fruitful.
5 – Jesus knew that the problems can’t be solved through human power alone. Therefore, we need to tap into the power of God himself, through intimate relationship with the Holy Trinity – through prayer! I think this strategy is mostly self-explanatory, but suffice it to say that without prayer, we are powerless to make a difference in the Church or in the world.
6 – Jesus preached Good News and invited a response whenever he determined someone might be open to responding to it. This one really is hard for a lot of Catholics. We like to think that evangelization will happen by osmosis alone, as long as we are decent people. Of course, we need to live holy lives. But, without the words of Good News – people won’t know they need to respond. Imagine if Jesus or the Apostles never preached the Gospel or asked others to follow Jesus? We wouldn’t have a Church today!
We need to learn how to do the same. If you don’t know where to start, this might help.
Missionary disciples give money, they evangelize, they don’t settle for sin, they don’t cause scandal, they reach out to others, and they do what Jesus did.
Evangelization and discipleship, as Jesus taught us, fixes all the major problems in the Catholic Church.
If you are a Catholic leader in a parish or diocese and want to implement the strategy of Jesus, but need help in doing so, may we offer our help. This is what we do.