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Summit reflection video for the 2nd Sunday in Advent 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?
Hidden Lake is less than 75 miles north of Atlanta, Georgia. It's approximately a 1 hour and 25 minute drive from the city.
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I try to say ‘yes’ to God each morning and He gives me crazy opportunities. I made it to the spelling bee three times and lost, but never got diskeraged. I love the beach, Italian food, and guitar solos. Unfortunately I can’t surf, cook, or play guitar. I take life one step at a time and try to enjoy it!
Camp Hidden Lake is a Catholic summer camp located in scenic Dahlonega, Georgia. It’s a place where parish youth groups from all over the country come together to experience summer camp at its best. Campers are given the opportunity to dive deeply into their Catholic faith and strengthen their relationship with Christ while having unforgettable experiences.
Remember Adam and Eve? Most of us know the story, and we know the term “Original Sin”. After this original sin, a long series of events were set into motion that was necessary for our salvation. See, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree that God told them not to, it was a big deal. They disobeyed and didn’t trust God. They blamed each other, were ashamed, and even hid from God. They were banished from the garden paradise, the place where they had perfect union with God and had all they would ever need. Things were out of whack. Things needed to be restored.
Thankfully, we have a God who brings order out of chaos and light into darkness.
We see this first in the very beginning of Sacred Scripture, with the “Big Bang”, when God brought the order of our universe out of the chaos of floating rocks and balls of gas.
We see it even further in the story of Salvation History, when God sought to ‘make right’ the relationship between man and God. This was ultimately fulfilled through the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He restored things to their proper order, and now you and I are welcome back into the garden paradise where there is a perfect union with God.
This is precisely what we were made for. God calls us to live our lives in right order, and this will lead us to true joy. God knows what’s best for us, which has always been true although Adam and Eve didn’t seem to grasp it. We’re called to honor and bring glory to God. He is above all else, but do we always put Him there in our hearts and minds?
While there are many ways to glorify God and bring Him honor, it’s important to know that we’re actually called to do this with our entire lives. It’s not only when we’re praying in a Church or singing worship songs. All of our words, actions, and relationships should glorify God. As we move through the week, we’re going to break down how to make sure our entire lives bring God glory. It’s going to be a fantastic journey.
Yesterday, we opened up the week talking a little bit about right order. We discussed briefly that God set out to put things back in right order after original sin. When we sin, things are not in their right order because we are putting something above or in front of God. But this doesn’t just happen when we sin. We can probably all think of ways that we put things above God. We might make our sport, relationship, or schoolwork a “god” in our lives.
Others around us will notice, too. The way we live our lives is a reflection of where God is in our lives. We are encouraged in scripture to live our lives in right order. Mark 12:30-31 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
So today we need to stop and think, not just in generalities, but specifically for each of us: what are things that might take God’s place in our lives? These things will not be easy to let go of, although we should give it our best. Even though it will be difficult, it will be worth it. Putting God first in our lives will bring us the happiness we’re looking for.
We may think that we’ve strayed too much or done too many things wrong to reorder our lives and put God first, but this isn’t true. In fact, tonight we get the opportunity to start over. No matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done, God’s limitless mercy awaits us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In this Sacrament, the priest is in the Person of Christ, and it is truly Jesus hearing and forgiving our sins. We can be completely honest and open about the things we’ve put before God. Not only we will be forgiven, but we’ll also be given a new burst of strength and grace to put God first in our lives in the future. Let’s embrace that and prepare for this Sacrament together!
Prayer is how we communicate with God. It’s talking and it’s listening. In fact, sometimes it’s just being—being in the presence of God, saying His name. Prayer is like the breath of our spiritual lives; if we don’t pray, we will eventually lose our life. When you consider this, would you ever let more than a few seconds go by without praying? Yet, so often we don’t think to pray when we wake up. We don’t think to pray before bed. We don’t think to pray in good times or in bad times. Sometimes we forget about prayer all together.
A common reason for this is that people feel like they don’t have time to pray. The good news for us is that prayer isn’t something you have to stop your life to do – in fact, your whole life can be a prayer. When you do things out of love, and when you pray about your every day decisions, they can become acts of prayer. Even when you’re doing simple things like walking through the hallways or sitting in your room at night, you can just be in the moment or you can prayerfully do what you think Jesus would want you to do. When you continuously pray, you bring Jesus everywhere you go.
On top of this general way of living, there are many intentional ways to pray. For example, many of us say “grace” before meals. There’s the rosary, reading scripture, going to adoration, etc. These are all wonderful ways to encounter Jesus. And of course, as Catholics, we have Mass. Now Mass isn’t just another way to pray; it’s the highest form of prayer. We enter into the timelessness and unconditional love of God. We receive the Eucharist, the true presence of Jesus, the source and summit of our faith. It changes the world every single time. And yet sometimes we are not even aware of the ways it can change us.
This is because sometimes we aren’t fully, actively, prayerfully, consciously participating in the Mass. Often times we mutter the phrases we’ve memorized, kneel and stand at the right times, zone out during the readings, and sleep through the Homily.
I firmly believe that if you and I can break these habits and participate in the Mass the way we’re supposed to, we will be changed and we will change the world.
How can we do this? Let’s start by preparing. Say a prayer before Mass, asking God to help you focus and enter in. Read the readings beforehand so they’re fresh in your mind. Read and learn about what we’re saying and doing at Mass, what the priest is doing, and ultimately what God is doing. Don’t just say the prayers, pray the prayers. Be all in. Be open.
Trust that God is truly present in the Eucharist and that at Mass we are sent out do love and serve Him and others. It’s a daunting task, but He gives us everything we need to do it. We draw our strength from prayer, and here on earth the ultimate prayer is the Mass. So let’s pray.
We’ve spent the bulk of this week focusing on our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is our most important relationship, and it should flow into all of the other relationships we have.
When we love others freely and selflessly, in a way that leads them to Heaven, it can be a good witness that we have a strong relationship with God. When we don’t love others well, it can signify that we are struggling in our relationship with God. For example, in 1 John 4:20, we hear, “If a man says he loves God, but he hates his brother, he is a liar.” The love we receive from God and the love we have for God should have a positive impact on our relationships in many ways. Perhaps the most important way for us to think about today is that we shouldn’t be seeking acceptance or identity in other relationships. We get those things from our relationship with God.
So, what are the different relationships in your life? The ones you probably focus on the most are your relationships with the people in your family and with your friends.
Family life can be pretty tough. All of us have a home dynamic that looks a little bit different than that of the person next to us. Some of us are only children and some of us might come from a huge family. Some of us have both parents around, or maybe just one, or maybe neither of our parents is around. At this point in our lives, it is important to remember that we probably couldn’t have controlled our family dynamic up until this point. There were a lot of decisions made that were out of our control. However you and I have the opportunity to decide the person we want to be to our families and friends. We can choose to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Many of us don’t like being obedient. Maybe we think we know more than our parents, or maybe we just get a thrill out of being rebellious. Either way, we should remember that Jesus was obedient to His parents – and He really did know more than them!
Remember when Jesus went rogue and was hanging out in the temple with the teachers, listening and asking questions? When Mary and Joseph came back to get Him, He was obedient and went with them, even if He didn’t see it as the best use of His time (Luke 2:51).
What about the rest of your family? For example, let’s say your younger sibling always gets in the bathroom before you and takes forever! It’s almost like they’re doing it on purpose, just to drive you crazy. Do we respond with anger or compassion? Are we patient? Do we try to put ourselves in their shoes? Are we open and honest about how we feel, or do we hold it all in until we explode and say hurtful things?
These same characteristics will help in our friendships as well. Our friends have a huge impact on us. We should be intentional in picking really solid friends—people we can trust, but also people who have our best in mind. People who wouldn’t ask us to sacrifice our morals, but rather people who uplift us and lead us to God. Now this doesn’t mean we can only talk to people who go to church and pray the rosary every day. But when we are forming friendships with people who don’t care about our spiritual life, chances are eventually we’re going to have to make difficult decisions between what they’re asking us to do and what God’s asking us to do. Also, when you have friends who are invested in your walk with Jesus, they can help you and carry your burdens alongside you. Believe me, when the going gets tough, great friends are priceless.
We need to keep our relationships Christ-centered, treat others with kindness and respect, lead others to God, and demand the same from them. I’ve seen many of you do this so far this week. There have been several opportunities to be a good, Christ-like friends and I’m so proud of the ways you’ve been doing that. As we move forward through this week, get excited because we’re going to dive even deeper into how we can glorify God with our lives!
Okay, today we’re passing around the basket. You better put some cash in otherwise you’re not giving to God. Don’t have any cash? Well then I guess you have nothing to give to God!
Ever felt that way? Sometimes it can be easy to believe that just because we’re young, we don’t have anything to offer to our family, Church, community, or God. This just isn’t true. Hopefully by this point in the week you have started to see the immense power you have with God inside of you.
We’re called to give from our time, talent, and treasure. You may not feel that you have much treasure to give. Try buying one less Starbucks drink a month and putting that money in the basket at Mass. Donate some of the extra clothes you don’t need. Ask for a few less presents when Christmas rolls around and ask instead that they be given to a child in need.
When it comes to giving time, get involved at your parish. Volunteer with Vacation Bible School or in the nursery. Lector at Mass or become an altar server. Sometimes giving our time just means being with a family member or friend who needs someone to listen to them.
For giving talent, just be you. Some of you are great artists, musicians, organizers, writers, joke tellers, etc. Find a place that your gift is needed and step up to the plate. Don’t be shy! God gave you these talents so you could glorify Him and be a blessing to others. Let your light shine.
In all of these, even though we are giving, we’re actually receiving much more. See, everything we have is a gift from God. When we pour it out, He fills us back up – it’s incredibly fulfilling. There is a special need in our world that only you can fill. Jesus modeled generosity for us and we need to do the same. As we work on giving Him everything, we can be the “the Light of the World” we’re called to be. If we keep our gifts hidden, the light won’t be as bright. So tonight let’s commit to giving our everything for God.
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