Life Teen Camp
Week 11 | June 9th - 14th
Host: Stephen Estes
Stephen Estes is passionate about the Catholic faith and sharing that faith with teens. Originally from the St. Louis area, he now lives in Steubenville, Ohio, where he recently graduated with a Master’s Degree in Theology from Franciscan University and serves as part of the Campus Evangelization Team. At the end of the summer, he will be moving to Houston, Texas, to join the Adore Ministries team. He loves reading theology, being outdoors, biking, playing music, and gazing at the stars or water. Having previously served as both a Summer Missionary and an intern with Life Teen, he feels blessed to come to Hidden Lake this year as a host to lead teens closer to Christ.
What is Hidden Lake?
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.
Who am I? What is the point of my life? Why do I exist? Why am I on earth? These are basic philosophical questions that all people ask themselves at one point or other.
Life Teen’s theme for 2014 is “Inspired”, which means, “to breathe life into.” We will be exploring this theme, in some way, all week. Tonight, it is all about the purpose of our existence and our journey – it is about these basic questions.
When creating the universe, God brought everything into existence with a simple command: “Let there be….” Light, dry land, plants, sea creatures, land animals…let there be! When creating us, though, God paused and went back into Himself to have a “Trinitarian conversation,” “Let us make man in our image; after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). How did He do this? “[T]he Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). He “inspired” us!
When God did this, He created humans to be a part of His covenant – part of His family. We are His children who share in His blessed life (CCC 1). Marriage is a great example of a modern day covenant where two people form a new family by saying “I do.” At our baptism, either our parents or we said, “I do” to a list of questions about our Catholic faith– it was at this moment that God “inspired” us and through the baptismal waters re-created us as His children.
The blueprint for our creation came straight from God’s inner life and so did His plan for our journey. We are often challenged by people who say that the life of a Catholic must be extremely boring, but to say that is to say that the inner life of God is boring—which is crazy!
God calls us into a journey that is a ride of a lifetime. Our lives are meant to be exciting and joy-filled and our lives have dignity beyond compare! The world will often tell us that our existence is coincidental, that there is no bigger story, that everything is just random, that there is no deeper purpose.
What does God say? He “saw everything he had created, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). It is good that we exist! We are not random. We are not an accident. “Before He formed us in the womb, He knew us” (Jeremiah 1:5). God knew exactly who He was creating when He breathed life into us. He intended us to live a specific journey, that no one else can live and being at camp is a part of that!
Throughout history, God reaches down and invites people to be a part of His family: Adam, Moses, Abraham, Peter, Paul, St. Francis, St. John Paul II, you and me. This is the bigger family we are a part of by nature of our baptism; it’s the Church! We are called to live as part of God’s family! This is a beautiful journey, an “inspired” journey… a Catholic journey!!!
Today's Top Shots:
Yesterday, we talked about how our blue print came straight from the inner life of God and that we were created for a purpose and a journey. This Catholic journey, which began at our Baptism, is the journey to be a part of God’s family. God “inspired” Adam and Eve and made them a part of His family, but in Genesis 3, they committed a sin which caused them to fall from this grace. In this, we see the depths of sin – it damages our familial relationship with God.
The fact that we are all called to be part of God’s family means that we are all called to be saints! We are called to live holy lives and to eventually live in Heaven with our Creator! In our daily lives, we can all think of examples of people we look up to, people who give us direction and inspiration. In living out our Catholic journey, we our blessed to have the inspiration of the saints who have gone before us.
Saints have already finished their journey; they have reached their final destination—Heaven. We could feel discouraged at times because the saints were so holy, but guess what, they were sinners too and some of them big sinners! The saints made mistakes just like us but they ultimately grew in holiness and turned away from sin. They were real people just like us so we can learn so much from them.
The life of St. Mary Magdalene, and her intercession for me, has been a particular inspiration in my life. I use to make a lot of mistakes – years ago, I would find myself falling into a lot of sin and having feelings of guilt and sorrow over it. One night, while feeling this pain, I began praying with the story of the sinful woman (St. Mary Magdalene) in Luke 7. She sat at the Lord’s feet, poured out her alabaster flask of ointment, and worshipped Him.
I realized that I was just like that alabaster flask. It was filled with beautifully fragranced perfume, yet it was bottled up and left to sit on a shelf. Similarly, I was filled with amazing grace from my baptism, but it was all bottled up due to sin and my having put other things before God. It wasn’t until the woman sat at Jesus’ feet that it could be broken open and the fragrance could flood out. At the end of the night, Christ said to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7: 48).
We have all have felt sorry at times in our lives and what we want at those times is closure; we want to be told, “It’s okay;” we want to be forgiven. That night, I had the overwhelming desire to sit at Christ’s feet like she did and hear Him say, “I forgive you.”
After Jesus’ Resurrection, John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus breathed on the apostles and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit, those who sins you forgive are forgiven […]” (20:22-23). Christ “inspired” and gave priests the power to forgive sins. I realized that going to Reconciliation was the way that I could go to the Lord’s feet, just like St. Mary Magdalene, and hear Him say, “I forgive you.” It is in Reconciliation that we are “re-inspired” to live as a part of God’s family.
Even if we are not in serious sin, we must learn to not put anything before God– sports, school, friends or work. When we concentrate more on these things than on God we are only offering Him the “leftovers” of our time and energy and we cannot become the saints we are called to be.
Let us look to the example of repentance and forgiveness in the lives of saints like St. Mary Magdalene and St. Paul, who went from killing Christians to writing more than half of the New Testament! Let us give everything to God and when we sin, sit at the Lord’s feet in Reconciliation and hear Him say: “I forgive you.”
Today's Top Shots:
So far this week we have seen that we are “inspired” to be part of God’s family and to live an amazing journey in the life of the Church. However, this can be weakened or lost through sin or offering God our “leftovers”. We are “re-inspired” through Reconciliation.
Sometimes, this journey can get long and wearing, and often it can feel as if we are all alone. We forget about God and that He is always with us.
Recently, I was on a flight out of Atlanta, and as we were taking off, everything on the ground was getting smaller – eventually I could put my thumb up and entire buildings would be covered, then the whole city of Atlanta—right there behind my thumb. I remembered reading that Neil Armstrong, while on the moon, commented that he could cover the entire earth with his thumb. My imagination began to run wild. If we could go further out, we could cover the whole solar system with a thumb, and further out still, if it were possible, the whole galaxy!
Did you know, if you counted all the stars in the Milky Way galaxy, one per second, it would take you 2, 500 year to do it—And that’s just one galaxy! But, Scripture tells us that all God had to do was speak and the stars came into existence.
Our God is huge. He is a mighty, magnificent star “inspirer,” who is beyond our wildest imagination and yet this same God would chose to come “inspiring” in tiny gasping breaths as a baby, in torn clothes, lying in a manger. His name is “Emmanuel” which means “God is with us.”
In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI addresses the question, “If the world today isn’t a perfect place, without poverty and suffering—what did Jesus actually bring?” He responded, “The answer is simple: God. He has brought God, and now we know His face, now we can call upon Him.”
Sometimes I forget that this humongous, star-breathing God came to us as little baby Emmanuel. Perhaps sometimes you forget that God is here with us and feel alone on your faith journey.
In the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10: 38-42), Martha forgot that God was sitting right there in her room! She was “anxious and worried about many things” and didn’t even realize that she was in Heaven – she was in the presence of God. But Mary realized it, and abandoned everything to sit at His feet.
The night before He died, Jesus gave us the Eucharist so that we could experience His real presence. In the Eucharist, God remains with us – it is our food for the journey; it is our strength (CCC 1392). Tonight we will have the opportunity to go to Adoration – we will go into the presence of God and will be faced with a choice. Will we forget that we are as close to heaven as we can be–in the real presence of God–or will we sit at His feet like Mary? If you want to see God, look to Jesus. If you want to see Jesus, look to the Eucharist. God is with us.
Today's Top Shots:
So far this week we have explored: our “inspired” journey with God, the call to be part of His family, the pain of sin as it breaks the covenant, the examples of repentance and forgiveness found in the lives of the saints, and the fact that we are never alone. God is with us on the journey, but this journey doesn’t just involve us; it doesn’t stop with us. Just as Emmanuel, “God with us,” loves us through our journey, He commands that we love others as He loved us (John 15:12).
In the Acts of the Apostles, it says that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. What is interesting about that is that the disciples didn’t name themselves Christians – they were called Christians by others. Others had seen the way they lived and gave them a name.
Perhaps you know 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 had 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 might be the only Bible that someone reads; do others encounter Christ when they encounter me?
Christ calls us to produce good fruit. He said, “You will know a tree by its fruit” (Matthew 7:16). If you walk into an apple orchard, you don’t 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 the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14). 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 thirst for His living water?
Christ also told us to produce fruit from our hearts in our works of service (which become works of mercy) in Matthew’s Gospel (25:34-40). Do people know mercy through my works?
St. Teresa of Avila once said, “Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world, Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, Yours are the eyes, you are his body.”
Tonight I encourage everyone to let your love be seen through your works. Paul tells Timothy to let no one despise his youth (1 Tim. 4: 12). You are never too young (or too old) to make a difference. Let people encounter Christ through you!
Today's Top Shots:
So far this week we have explored: our “inspired” journey with God and call to be part of His family, the pain of sin as breaking the covenant, the examples of repentance and forgiveness found in the lives of the saints, the fact that we are never alone–that “God is with us” on the journey and that God has called us to love others as He has loved us.
Our first night, we compared the covenant God forms with us at Baptism to a marriage – two people come together in love to start a family, which didn’t exist before. At a wedding, each person is asked if they take the other to be their spouse, and they respond, “I do.” At our Baptism, either we or our parents said, “I do,” to questions about the faith – we began a family life with God.
Baptism doesn’t complete our journey, though; it’s only the beginning. Imagine a couple getting married and exchanging their “I do’s,” but after the wedding, the husband takes off and ignores his wife, not being faithful to the vows he just made. The wife finds the husband and confronts him about not being around and not living as her husband. The husband responds, “What? I said ‘I do’, isn’t that enough?” It’s not enough to just promise to live a life together; they must continually live in sickness and health, in good times and in bad.
In the same way, our baptismal “I do” starts our journey with God, but the Spirit is the one who continually helps us live out that journey, in the good times and the bad. Jesus “inspired” the apostles with the Holy Spirit, and they were “filled” with Him (Acts 2:4). From that point on, the Spirit was their guide for the journey, within the life of the Church. Sometimes we forget this, though; we think that we know the best way, that we know how to get there on our own.
Recently I was taking a road-trip with some friends and I was using a GPS to guide me. I my missed turn, which threw things off, but I noticed that the woman in the box didn’t start yelling, “Dang it, Stephen! Why didn’t you follow my lead?! Now I have to go through tons of trouble to find a new route and it’s going make your arrival time much later!” No. She calmly said, “Recalculating.”
I realized that this was analogous to my faith journey. The Holy Spirit is always leading me through the Church but sometimes I think I know better. When I get off track, He doesn’t yell and get mad. He “recalculates” for me and though my arrival time may be a little later, He will help me reach my destination.
Tonight we prayed for the power of the Holy Spirit, the Love of God that unites Father and Son in the Trinity, to be poured into our hearts. We prayed that the Spirit would come and guide us on our journey.