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Summit reflection video on the 6th Sunday of Easter with Joel Stepanek.
Covecrest is more than a retreat center and summer camp. Covecrest is a community of Catholics committed to transforming teens, transforming parishes, and transforming culture. Will you join us?
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I spent most of my 8th grade year in detention because there wasn’t a dare I wouldn’t accept. But in high school, my youth minister dared me to follow Christ and I haven’t looked back. I love all things Wisconsin, especially the Green Bay Packers. I can probably eat more cheese than you. (Please don’t dare me to prove it.)
Camp Covecrest is a Catholic summer camp set in the mountains of North Georgia. It’s a place where parish youth groups from all over the country come together to experience summer camp at its best. Teens are given the opportunity to dive deeply into their Catholic faith and strengthen their relationship with Christ while having unforgettable experiences.
Every community is unique and has a purpose. Some communities are formed for the sake of competition, like a sports team or a dance club. Others are artistic community, formed to put on musical or dramatic productions. Some communities are built for support, others to accomplish a task or project.
This week at Covecrest, we have a diverse and unique community. We have parishes from all across the United States, priests from as far as South Africa, a seminarian from Nigeria and a religious sister from Kenya. What brings this community together? What is our purpose?
We are gathered as the Church, and our purpose is the same: We are gathered to worship and serve God. Though many of us made the choice to come to camp, really it was God that gathered us. It is always God that calls and gathers the Church.
This call goes all the way back to the Book of Exodus. This Old Testament book provides a narrative account of the Israelite community and their escape from Egypt. When we remember the Exodus, we think about the parting of the Red Sea and the ten plagues of Egypt. We often forget the reason why the Israelites needed to leave Egypt. God called the community of Israel to worship him in the wilderness; Pharoh would not comply. He was fearful that allowing the entire community to leave to worship God would devastate the industry where they worked as slaves. But God called the community for a specific purpose, and he would not let Pharoh stand in the way of that call.
God calls the Church to worship. Last night, we spent time experiencing the challenge of an obstacle course – our challenge was capped off with a heavy downpour. We carried crosses through that obstacle course and returned inside, soaking wet and covered in mud. As we laid our crosses down in the front of the room, we prepared our hearts for Mass. We gathered in for worship, just as the Israelite community did at the base of Mount Sinai – their ultimate destination of the call they received. God offered them a relationship and promise, and God did the same thing last night for us at Mass.
This week, we are part of a unique community at Covecrest. God has a plan for us – and that plan begins and ends with our worship of him. We are excited to see what the Holy Spirit has in store for us, and are excited to share it with all of you.
God is love.
This divine truth is revealed to us in the first letter of St. John. God’s very nature is love and anything contrary to love would be contrary to God’s nature. It becomes incompatible. God cannot act against His own nature, but we can.
When we act against love, our relationship with God and with others is hurt, weakened, or destroyed. We call these actions sin.
God, despite our sin, extends an offer of a relationship to us. This amazing reality is demonstrated clearly in the cross. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, accepts the punishment of death that our sin deserves. Through His sacrifice, we are redeemed and saved.
This offer of salvation is extended to all, but not all accept. Why? Doesn’t that seem contrary to God’s nature—that God would allow some people to choose against him? Love requires a choice. To allow us to choose against God, even though it breaks His heart, is love. I cannot force someone to love me; if I did, it would be imprisonment and coercion, not love. Sin exists because of our human pride, but it is allowed because of God’s love.
We had an opportunity to accept this relationship with Christ and be reconciled to God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This sacrament is made of a free choice; we decide that we want to accept the love and mercy that is waiting for us. When we sit in front of a priest to confess our sins, it isn’t a “maybe I will be forgiven,” it is a definite, “I am forgiven.” Many teenagers took advantage of this offer of mercy and love last night. It was incredible to look out on the field at Covecrest and see teenagers receiving the sacrament while others sat in their small groups reading a bible study about God’s mercy and forgiveness.
This offer of love and mercy is extended to us always, but we do not always take advantage of it. We challenged the teenagers to recognize that they are loved and God desires a relationship with them. Through the rest of this week we will be diving into that amazing relationship and what it means to live it internally and in our world.
Take a moment to think about a time that someone’s words positively impacted you.
We all have words that are burned into our mind for all the right reasons. They may have been words of affirmation from a parent or a coach, or something kind that a friend said at just the right moment. Words have tremendous power.
We can also think of times when the opposite was true. Words can also be destructive; we can say things to others that hurt for a long time.
The power of our words comes from the reality that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and God’s words have tremendous creative power. It is through the power of God’s word that creation is made. Jesus Christ, God’s full power and revelation, is called the Word. When God speaks, it is often depicted in scripture as thunder and trumpet blasts. Very few people were able to hear the voice of God; many times the power of God’s word was mediated through angels.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could, though? I’ve often asked God to just speak clearly to me about the direction that he wants me to take in my life, about various situations and challenges, and to speak in affirmation that God is even present.
I’ve never heard any trumpet blasts or thunder. Sometimes, it seems like the silence is deafening.
There is a way, however, to encounter the living word of God – I’ve often looked in the wrong places.
Whenever we encounter Sacred Scripture we encounter God’s word. Hebrews 4:12 says that the word of God is “living and effective.” Those two words don’t describe a dead book or words that don’t matter. They describe God’s word. God’s word is living – it brings life and creates. It grows with us and speaks to us within our current life situation and context. It is effective – when we encounter it our lives are changed. It has power.
We can encounter God’s word anytime we open up our bible. We also encounter it every Sunday at Mass. There are four readings at every Sunday Mass: The first reading, the psalm, the second reading, and the Gospel. Those are four places we can encounter God’s living word.
At camp, we spent time reflecting on God’s word at Mass. We spent time journaling after each of the daily readings. We took those insights into Eucharistic Adoration and challenged ourselves to dive deeply into the second half of the week. We are excited for the ways that God is moving, and are ready to witness the incredible glory to be revealed as we begin the second half of the first week of Covecrest.
It has been an incredible week of camp, and we are only a little more than halfway through. After a second day of ropes challenges and whitewater rafting, the teens returned and we celebrated Mass then ate dinner together. For evening programming, the men and the women divided for prayer and discussion.
We challenged each gender to recognize the ways that their identity is rooted in Christ, and to call to mind the areas where their lives are not conformed to Jesus. Through prayer, we asked Christ to break those areas of our lives so they could be reformed and made new in Him. Groups spent time discussing these areas with each other, and then spent time praying over each other. It was a powerful evening, but it wasn’t done.
We entered into silence and perpetual Eucharistic Adoration from 10:30 PM until 8:00 AM. We challenged the teenagers to simply be still and listen to God in the silence. Each cabin committed to a half hour of prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament at various times through the evening. Meeting Christ in the silence was powerful for many teenagers.
As we enter into the final days of Covecrest, we are going to dive even more deeply into what it means to receive Christ and take him back out into the world. Thank you for your continued prayers for us as we laugh, grow, and fall more deeply in love with Christ.
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