Thoughts of evangelization.

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On Thursday I heard a speaker talk about Pope John Paul II’s idea of the “new evangelization,” in which he said that those in need of evangelization include a lot of people who were raised Catholic.  So true…  The speaker is involved with a campus ministry called FOCUS, that seeks to help Catholic college students grow in their faith.  He put it that they want to “light a fire” in the kids they work with, help them stay strong and growing in their own faith, and give them the skills to help their peers do the same.  The speaker quoted a statistic that said that of the Catholic kids who go to college each year, 70% will stop practicing their faith in their freshman year, and of those, 50% will still be away from the faith upon graduation.  Truth be told, that statistic doesn’t surprise me at all.

I used to think maybe I didn’t have a good handle on my faith as a young adult because the Catholic culture isn’t good at evangelizing teenagers.  But, upon reflection, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s not the reason.  I went to a Catholic high school, and I’m so glad.  It was the best thing my parents did for me, hands down.  But all the spiritual things, the faith-based things…I said no, except when I had to say yes.  I took my required religion classes, and went to church with my peers, and participated in the sacraments.  But all these extracurricular opportunities to grow in my faith, I said no.  Lots of people went to something called NCYC each year, and I never went.  There was an extracurricular group, the LIFE group, or FAITH group, or something (the memories of what I didn’t participate in are foggy!), and I don’t entirely know what they did on a regular basis, but I didn’t participate even once.  I definitely had a real and personal relationship with God, but I wasn’t ready to grow in faith.  I wish I had been.  But the fact that I wasn’t growing set me up for a backward slide in the beginning of college, away from God.

And you all know by now what happened since.  And I hope you’ve figured out that even when I seem to come upon an epiphany of some sort, I never really have it all figured out.  We’re not meant to.  But one thing I know, it’s not about Catholic versus non-Catholic.  It’s not even about going to church versus not going to church.  It’s about, do I have a personal relationship with God?  Am I allowing Christ to be the center of my life?  If so, then I need to find a church family that is right for me, that teaches me and inspires me, that helps me grow in faith and continue to make Christ the center of my life.

 

Some thoughts from the speaker:

 

You can’t give what you don’t have.

This reminds me of that verse about taking the plank out of your own eye before helping your brother take the sliver out of his.  I want, more than anything, to live for God and allow Him to use my life to draw others to Himself.  But He can only do that if I let him to be in me!

 

If He’s not Lord of all, He’s not Lord at all.

“Okay, God, you can be in charge of what I do on Sunday mornings, and you can be in charge of whether I steal anything or kill anyone, but I don’t want to honor my parents, so I’m going to be in charge of that part.”  Not the best example, because while the ten commandments are good and important, they are easily simplified and interpreted as a checklist of things you can do to go to heaven.  But you see my point.  If I’m having a hard time letting go of even one little ounce of control over my life, then there is a boundary between me and God.  (Personally, there are a lot of boundaries between me and God!  I don’t know anyone for whom this is an easy thing.)

It’s a hard thing, this issue of control.  When we feel like we have control, we feel safe.  We feel like we can handle whatever happens, because we are in control of what happens.  But the fact is, no matter what we do, we are not in control.  So that theory is going to crash and burn, and take us down with it, eventually.  I am not in control, but God is.  No matter what happens good or bad, I know that God’s hand is in it.  I might not be able to control what happens, but I can trust He who is in control.  That’s not an easy thing either, and I find myself repeating that thought almost daily.  But when I can believe it, it brings such peace.

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