Do you know anyone over the age of 39 who absolutely LOVES GETTING OLDER? Me neither….except for MYSELF! Yes, I LOVE getting older. It’s the most awesome experience in the world. In my 62 years on this earth I’ve learned SO much. Some the easy way and some the hard way, but all of it valuable in making me the person I am today and one who’s willing to share with others the knowledge I’ve gained. Take FAITH for example. The shared goal of all Christians is Heaven…for eternity….in the presence of God and Jesus. How do we get there? Well, there doesn’t seem to be a defined checklist and Christians collectively agree that you can’t EARN your way into Heaven. So what can we do? We can pursue a life in Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It means living a life consistently moving towards modeling the life of Jesus and the lessons of the Gospels and Bible.
Did I lose ya? Was I headed into a “deep thought process” that you’d prefer to avoid right now? Don’t leave me just yet. The Holy Spirit is just about to kick in here and provide you with some love, logic, inspiration, and encouragement.
Our family was asked to write an article about our Faith focused on two questions: How have you put your faith in action through acts of service? and What does it mean to you to be the hands and feet of Jesus? We began by discussing both questions over dinner at our kitchen table. Then we split up and wrote some of our thoughts on paper that were inspired by our earlier conversation. One of my first thoughts was “Why don’t we do this on a regular basis?” which was also influenced by my recent preparation for a Christ Renews Witness talk about Being a Disciple of Jesus and how powerful preparing for that was for my “Journey to God.” Wanna know what I’ve realized going through these two wonderful “Faith Exercises?” I realized it’s not about “what we do”….it’s about “who we become.” Our family’s journey of “who we become” has been influenced over the past 25 years of our marriage and parenting by many of YOU (thank you), by our Parish family, by neighbors, by the Bible, by friends, by books and videos, by our Pastor and Parish Staff, by members of the community, by quotes, and by us constantly seeking a path to Jesus in everything we say, and do, and post on the internet. Say WHAT? Okay….we’ve stuck our toe in the water….let’s wade in a little deeper.
“Life is God’s gift to you….the way you live your life is your gift to God”
When you arrive at them Pearly Gates, what will your gift to God look like? Could a simple saying like the one above have a positive influence on “who you become?” It did for us! How about this next one:
“Your Life may be the only Bible some people read”
I think about that quote every day. Father Rob Howe, in one of his Homily’s, shared that many of the people seeking to join our Faith through RCIA pursued joining because they noticed an individual they knew living their life successfully, how they seemed to process even the toughest challenges with this thing they described as their Faith, and how they became interested in learning more about the Bible and that persons Faith because of what they observed (a person living a Bible-based life pursuing Jesus). People are influenced more by what they see us do rather than what they hear us say. They need evidence. I’m always wondering if my actions could get me convicted of being a follower of Jesus. How bout’ you? Don’t worry about being judged here. Another benefit about being my age is that I don’t have the ability to judge anyone other than myself. You see, God is the only one that knows every single thing about a person other than themselves. And without knowing every single thing about another person it’s impossible to accurately judge them so I just leave that up to God. The only thing I can gain from observing others is knowledge of how “what I observe” can help me on my path towards living a life like Jesus and spending eternity in Heaven. Remember those silicone bracelets that had WWJD on them? I still kinda like that thought process, so I continue to ask myself “What Would Jesus Do?” on a regular basis….especially with the tough decisions we now face daily during the pandemic.
If I’m starting to lose you again, try this one on for size:
What’s the number 1 determining factor in whether children who grew up regularly attending Church will attend Church on a regular basis as an adult?
Give up? I couldn’t have answered this correctly for the life of me but here it is: It’s whether the father of the family sings while at Church during the service! Now ponder it for a second. It makes perfect sense. Moms always sing at Church which sends the message of the importance of not just being there but being a part of what’s going on and paying attention. Kids expect that. But when the Dad just sits there with a look on his face showing no interest in what’s happening all around him, he’s totally dismissing the significance of being present in the moment and accepting the gift of a community worshiping together. Kids walk away having learned that there doesn’t need to be a place where they gather for worship in their adult life. It didn’t really mean anything to Dad so it doesn’t have to mean anything to me. One of the greatest gifts Kim and I have shared with our children was for all of us to embrace the gift…the experience…of the gathering of the congregation, moving towards Christ together, embracing communion, SINGING together, participating as Altar Servers, Eucharistic Ministers, and Homebound Ministers. Teaching Faith Formation, attending Christ Renews(several times), meeting regularly with small groups of others pursuing Heaven and Jesus, and all of this….ALL OF THIS has our Parish as the foundation from infancy through maturity(Thank You Blessed Sacrament).
By actively being involved(being the hands and feet of Jesus and putting our Faith in action through acts of service) we have enjoyed the Blessing of support, love, care, and compassion from being married at Blessed Sacrament(1995), to the death of Kims mom(1996) to the birth of our first three sons, to the adoption of our fourth son, to the death of Kims dad(1999) to my broken neck, to the death of my father(2008), to our son with Down Syndrome becoming a type 1 diabetic, to our first communion and confirmation celebrations, to the death of my mother(2016), to our graduations,….this list could continue on and on….but the point is: YOU….our Parish Family….has been there for us through ALL of it. You have inspired us want to serve God the way you have shown us through little every day acts of kindness and love. We’ve watched you, and learned from you. We want to pay it forward to others as we pursue eternal life in Heaven.
Now the experience our family has had over the past 25 years is available to EVERYONE. It doesn’t have to look like ours. It can be completely different as long as it’s a path to, what I said in the first paragraph of this article, pursuing a life in Jesus Christ. The resources are within the Church, its staff, and our Parish Family. They’re offered free of charge and are there for the taking….but you have to take action. You have to be committed. A book that had a profound impact on my life is “not a fan – BECOMING A COMPLETELY COMMITTED FOLLOWER OF JESUS” by kyle idleman. In the book he forces us to look at our lives and determine whether we’re a fan or a follower. He describes fans as people who may regularly go to church, might have a fish on the back of their car, can maybe quote scripture, and hope life here on earth is comfortable and easy due to the cheering for Jesus they proclaim. He describes a follower as someone who’s not in the stands but down on the field, working hard, sometimes winning sometimes losing, but always(every day) attempting to move towards the goal(eternity in Heaven) knowing that they’re going to get hurt, face challenges, fail once in a while always knowing that with the support of their solid foundation(their Faith) and good play calling(pursuing a life in Jesus Christ) they will consistently make progress towards the goal. So which are YOU? Fan or Follower? What would the evidence of your daily life and actions convict you of? Most of us would prefer to shy away from having to answer that but the truth is we all need one or more people in our life to hold us accountable to who we really are. Additionally, the book forces us to have a DTR. Most of you know that when a couple has been dating, sooner or later that dating leads to a DTR (Define The Relationship). It can be scary because it forces both people to share with each other how COMMITTED they are to the relationship using actual WORDS. So…the book forces us to consider the answer, using actual words, as to how each of would describe our DTR WITH GOD! What is your level of commitment to Eternal Life in Heaven? Really! Take the time and focus on what your heart is telling you. Wow…Deep…I know…it was meant to take you out of the fan(comfort) zone and get you down on the field(follower). Serving God was never meant to be a cake walk, it was meant to be meaningful, leading us up to the Pearly Gates where God and His Son Jesus await us with the greeting “Well Done my Good and Faithful Servant.”
Many people I admire utilize scripture as motivation and inspiration. It brought Kim and I great joy when our youngest son Eric(15) wrote down his answers to the two questions: how have you put your faith in action through acts of service?, and what does it mean to be the hands and feet of Jesus? and he referred to specific scripture. He referred to Mark 12 and Matthew 22 referring to the two most important commandments, and Luke 10 referring to the story of the good Samaritan, and Luke 6 referring to do to others as you would have them do to you. We’re grateful that Eric is already forming his Faith Foundation that will serve him well the rest of his life. Having said that….How’s your Faith Foundation coming along? The fact is most of us remember stories more than statistics, or percentages, or numbers. That’s why Jesus utilized stories to make a point. All I have to do is say “the Good Samaritan story” and you can recall that the point is if someone is hurting, don’t walk by, stop and help. If I asked you what the two most important commandments are you could probably tell me: “Love God and Love your Neighbor”
As I close, It’s important to know that while our family is pursuing a life in Jesus, eternal life in Heaven, and participating on the field as followers as much as we can, we are no better than the least of you…and no worse….and that we believe the ground is level at the foot of the Cross. We believe we’re having a lot of success and a manageable share of failures. We make mistakes, we’re human and we sin. We ask God for forgiveness. We awake each morning excited to serve both God and others. To be helpful and to continue our pursuit of a life in Jesus Christ and spending eternity in Heaven. Remember, our path doesn’t have to be your path, but if you ever want to talk to any of our family we’ll gladly share the role our Parish, our participation, our volunteerism and our Faith play in our pursuit. You don’t have to wait until I’m 63. Peace to all of our Brothers and Sisters. We’re grateful for the role you continue to play in our lives. Amen! Allelujah!