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Summit reflection video on the 6th Sunday of Easter with Joel Stepanek.
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Stephen Estes is passionate about the Catholic faith and sharing that faith with teens. Originally from the St. Louis area, he now is a part of the team at Adore Ministries. He loves reading theology, the outdoors, biking, playing music, and staring at the stars or water. Having previously been both a summer missionary and an intern with Life Teen, he is blessed to come to Hidden Lake this year as a host to lead teens closer to Christ.
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.
One of the most important and profound aspects of camp is that it gives us a chance to take a step outside of our daily routine into a week that brings something new. We can open up in a new way, ask big questions, take risks, go deeper, and have experiences that draw us out of the “ordinary” into the “extraordinary.”
Ultimately, that is what this year’s theme is all about: “glorify”. We will be exploring this theme all week.
To glorify has two meanings:
According to the first definition, we see that to glorify someone/something is to make it clear that it is above and beyond the “ordinary”; according to the second, we see it is precisely God Who is above and beyond and glorifying Him involves our lives. Our lives themselves must be out of the “ordinary”!
St. Ireneaus perhaps best described the relationship between God’s glory and our lives when he said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” When I first read that quote, I was immediately struck by the fact that he didn’t merely say: “the glory of God is man alive;” he said “fully alive.” There is a difference. A good analogy would be the difference between being “wide awake,” and merely “awake.”
Consider the select few in the world who would consider themselves the dreaded “morning people.” These are the folks who, upon our arriving at work or school, do their best to ruin our glaze-eyed, straight-forward staring morning introvertedness, with a loud, charming “GOOD MORNING!!” This is shocking to the rest of the world, because we are merely “awake,” while they are “wide awake.”
Or perhaps what may strike home even more with adults: during grad school I made the regrettable decision to get addicted to coffee. Anyone sharing in this dependence will know just how vile the day is when you decide to not shoot back a cup of joe. You didn’t even realize it was possible to be awake and feel this unawake…At this point we are just trying to survive.
The difference is evident and we can readily see the difference between being fully alive and merely alive. Unfortunately, many people think being a “good Catholic” is synonymous with “surviving” – if I can just force myself to pray every now and then, barely make it to Sunday Mass, and avoid all the “big sins” – then I can check off all these boxes on the “good Catholic” list. We forget, Jesus never asked us to give Him a check-list, He asks us to love Him with our whole heart, mind soul, and strength. He asks us to glorify Him with everything – our entire lives!
One of the most radical claims of Christianity is that this God, Who only had to breathe and the stars came into existence (Psalm 139) calls us into a family relationship with Him – the purpose of our life is to “know God, love God, and make Him known” (Youcat 1-2).
Therefore, it is far from the case that what seems like normal everyday activities: schoolwork, sports, music lessons, spending time with family/friends etc. are bad. It’s that when our whole life points towards God, these things that seem so “ordinary” in the eyes of the world, take on an “extraordinary” significance. They are part of who God created us to be, they are part of our family relationship with Him, and they are part of us becoming “fully alive.” They glorify God!
Perhaps that is the message that God has for some of the teens this week – WAKE UP! Wake up in this life to the extraordinary story of God’s glory going on all around you – wake up to life, give it to God, and start living it!
Yesterday, we talked about who God is and what it means to glorify God with our lives – giving Him everything. Today, we get into the second part of the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
What takes God’s place? In order to live we need breath. This is obvious. In order to be fully alive – with the spiritual life that glorifies God, we need His breath. Our first parents were given this “breath of life” (Gen. 2: 7) in the Garden of Eden, but lost this breath, and ultimately the fullness of life, when they sinned. We are given this “breath of life” at baptism, yet, in this we see the profoundness of sin and putting other things above God: we lose that breath.
About a year ago, I was enjoying a grand summer day by tubing in a lake. The driver apparently decided that he didn’t want me to enjoy this trip, so he took it upon himself to try and make sure I left the lake in a body-cast. After whipping me from left to right, while I hung on for dear life, I eventually was thrown so hard that smacking the water I get the wind knocked out of me. For a few moments, I honestly feared for my life. Why? Because I couldn’t breathe!
Very soon after I was struck with the reality of the “breath of life” – if only we could know how our souls felt when we lack this breath – sins would make us gasp for breath, gasp for full life, just like getting the wind knocked out of us.
The truth is that we are called to be saints! And for the saints, everything in life points towards God. So, the moment we begin to put things in God’s place, whether intentionally or not, we start to move away from being fully alive, away from the life of a saint.
For the youth today, this is easier than it seems. We are constantly taught to be thinking about the future and becoming a “well-rounded” person. This isn’t bad, but it can become bad once faith/Church becomes one more thing on a list that makes us a “well-rounded person.”
From a young age, teens are often taught the following list: God first, family second, school third, sports/friends fourth, etc. and from a young age this always really bothered me, but I couldn’t figure out why – until one day I realized – it makes it seem like they are separate!
Have you ever heard someone talk about their “prayer life” or their “spiritual life” – what does that even mean? Like, its separate from our “social life” and our “school life?”
Recently my parents bought a little dog named Bodie, (cue all the girls going “aww”) and when they are done eating (since the garage disposals known as my brother and I are no longer home) they give the leftovers to Bodie! Watching this happen one day I began to wonder how often we offer our “leftovers” to God.
The truth is, even if God is first, the moment we separate Him into one category of our life, we are on the fast-track to offering Him what is leftover of our time and energy from the rest of our life; therefore, having other gods before Him – no longer living a life that is fully alive and giving Him glory—losing that breath of life.
However, another radical claim of Catholicism is that God loves us enough to give it right back! In fact, after His Resurrection:
“(Jesus) breathed on them, and said to them ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven…” (John 20: 21)
When Jesus did this, He was exactly replicating what God did to Adam in in the Garden of Eden (see above) – allowing us to reclaim the breath of life and glorify Him.
When we have offended someone and we apologize, the first thing we want to hear is: “it’s okay, I forgive you”. As the teens approach confession tonight, they are reminded that to sit with the priest is just like sitting with Jesus, hearing Him say “I forgive you” and being able to breathe freely again.
Over the last two days we have talked about glorifying God and certain things that take God’s place. Today, we will begin to think about who God is and the specific relationship He has called us to. Today’s topic is glorifying God in prayer.
“The most important thing about you is what you think about (what comes to mind) when you think about God.” (A.W. Tozer)
One of the greatest challenges we have is to think about God. What comes to your mind when you do this?
I once took a short trip to New York City with the idea that I would be able to see the whole city in two days. Anyone who has actually been to there just shook their head and chuckled when they read the previous sentence. Two days might complete the subway ride from one end of the city to the other. So, as I frantically scurried from one end of the city to the other trying to see all the big sites (the Statue of Liberty, Yankee Stadium, Time Square etc.) I quickly realized that it would take me a month to see everything!
As I flew back home, I had an experience that anyone who has ever worked up the nerve to look out of an airplane window has had (and if you haven’t, don’t worry, it’s common sense) – the things on the ground became smaller! As I went higher there came a certain point that the gigantic city that would take me a month to get around fit behind my thumb…and I was reminded of a quote by Neil Armstrong while He was on the moon:
“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth.”
I was struck at this moment by the hugeness of God, who only had to breathe and the stars came into existence (Psalm 139). And yet, this God walked among us.
“Jesus has brought God and now we know his face; now we can call upon him. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth)
When we truly understand the above truth, we discover the profoundness of prayer. Every religion in the world claims that God and humans exist, and in every religion humans try to reach up to God and communicate with Him. Yet, another radical claim of Catholicism is that it is this God who has ultimately reached down to us, opening the door for conversation, and, as Pope Emeritus Benedict says “Now we know his face; now we can call upon Him.” This is the essence of prayer.
As the Youcat tells us, prayer is “turning the heart toward God. When a person prays he enters into a living relationship with God” and in this prayer we join Jesus and take on His life (469-477). The teens will be presented with a number of types of prayer (thanksgiving, adoration, petition, intercession, contrition) and three different ways to pray:
Lectio Divina, the rosary, praise and worship, and silent adoration are all beautiful ways to pursue our relationship with God and the more often we pursue prayer, the more our “prayer life” and “life” become one.
But the highest form of prayer, which isn’t just another type of prayer, but the “source and summit” of the whole Christian life is the Eucharistic liturgy – the Mass. In the Mass, we are called to “remembrance” of God’s actions in history, while these are also made present and relived in the “breaking of the bread”. The Eucharist is literally God’s continuation of His self-gift to us, and receiving the Eucharist – literally receiving God’s life – is the most perfect form of becoming one with God. As the teens approach God’s presence – body, blood, soul, and divinity – in the liturgy, we will be reminded that we are part of this larger story on earth read aloud in the readings and are made one with Him in the Eucharist.
So far this week, we have discussed glorifying God, what can take God’s place in our lives, and our relationship with God as it is lived out in a life of prayer. It is important for us to remember that even though we are called to a personal relationship with God, that doesn’t mean it excludes others.
As we talked about on Monday, we are commanded to love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, but this is quickly followed by, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our love for God must flow directly into our communities – our families, our friends, our schools, teams, clubs–should all be rooted in love! St. John the Apostle tells us that, “God is love” – in saying this, he implies that God Himself is communal. If we say someone is loving, it can never mean that they just sit there all full of love; they must actually express it to others!
St. Augustine tells us that within the Trinity, God the Father is the Lover, God the Son is the Beloved, and God the Holy Spirit is the Love that unites them. A love that is so strong, so passionate, and so pure that it literally manifests as a third person. God is not only communal, He is family!
This shows us the radical importance the Catholic Church places on families. Knowing that we all come from diverse familial backgrounds makes it can be challenging to come up with one set “right way” to glorify God, but tonight we take some time to practically apply how we can take our love for God and live it out within our families – God Himself tells us we must, “honor our fathers and mothers” and St. Paul tells husbands and wives to lay down their lives for one another as Christ laid down His life for the Church (Eph. 5) and parents to respect and love their children (Eph. 6).
St. Paul goes on to give us perhaps the most important image of the Church: The Mystical Body of Christ. Just as a body has different body parts with different functions, so the Church has various types of members with different functions, but they ultimately must work together, utilize each others gifts, and build each other up in order to function as a body. All relationships fit into this image of the Church, by respecting, supporting and building one another up, we glorify God.
Of utmost importance for Edgers is glorifying God in friendships. Friendships must be Christ-centered because they ultimately have a profound effect on our identity and self-perception. We need to be willing to let go of friendships that turn sour and no longer lead us to God and to glorify Him, while also realizing we can never abandon the person by no longer loving them.
Several saints (such as Francis, Dominic and Clare; Paul and Barnabas; and Augustine and his mother), give us profound examples of people who loved one another, worked through struggles, and ultimately led relationships that glorified God.
After discussing glorifying God Himself by becoming fully alive, in prayer, in relationships, and making sure things don’t take His place, we turn to glorifying God in giving.
In the Acts of the Apostles, it says that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. What is interesting here is that the disciples didn’t name themselves Christians – they were called Christians by others. Others had seen the way they lived their lives and had given them a name.
Perhaps you remember (or maybe still sing in Mass) the hymn that says “they will know we are Christians by our love.” Why do we sing this? Because it is true! When the disciples were first called Christians, it was because they had shown the world what it meant to be Christian – they earned the title. And I wonder – would this be true today? Is it true of my life? Do I show others I’m Christian by my love?
Someone once told me that I may be the only Bible that someone reads; do others encounter Christ when they encounter me?
Christ calls us to produce good fruit (“you will know a tree by its fruit”). If you walk into an apple orchard, you never hear the trees screaming at you, “APPLE! APPLE!” – a tree doesn’t have to tell you what kind of fruit it bears, because you can see it. Do people see my fruit?
Christ calls us to be salt and light to the earth. What does light do? It shows the way. What does salt do? It makes people thirsty. Do I show people the way to Christ? Do I make people thirsty for His living water?
Christ told us how to produce fruit from the heart in our works of service in Mt. 25: 34-40–the works of mercy. Do people know mercy through my works?
St. Teresa of Avila once said: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours.Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
doing good; Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”
How do we become Christ’s hands and feet? By giving – giving of our:
We must realize that all we have is a gift from God and in sharing it, we are ultimately sharing God with another and loving our neighbor as Christ loved us. In this we become a light in the darkness and the world will know we are Christians by our love.
But, what is most important is the type of giving that God provided. When He gave Himself to us in His Son, He doesn’t merely call us to passively “acknowledge” this – He calls us to receive Him and then give ourselves back to God. In giving ourselves to God, we have made the most radical surrender possible.
The story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10) gives a prime example of someone whose has left behind worldly concerns to merely “sit at the Lord’s feet” receive His love and give herself back to Him. When we approach God in Adoration, we are challenged to have this same attitude of surrender and self-gift, and in doing this, we give the most radical example to the world of why we should be called “Christians”.
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