I'm not sure if you know this about me but something rather drastic happened in my life a couple months ago – I found out I had an intolerance for gluten. If you follow me on the Twittersphere (LT_Christina) you've probably seen me talk about this. Scratch that, you've probably seen me complain and bemoan my gluten-less state while everyone else is so happily eating muffins and bagels and brownies.
This summer at all of the Life Teen Summer Camps, the hosts have been walking through the Beatitudes.ÌâåÊThe first Life Teen week, I was able to sit in on all of the sessions and was deeply challenged by the truths that the host was sharing as he talked about poverty, justice and what we are really called to as Christians. (Thanks Gomer!)ÌâåÊThe Spirit began stirring in me and in Erik, and we decided that we needed to really examine our lives, our lifestyle, and our understanding of our call as Christians to live in solidarity with the poor.ÌâåÊ
The fact is that every time I see a hero in a movie do something awesome, I want to do the same. However, thinking I’ll hit like Rocky or climb walls like Spiderman is not realistic and will likely get me in over my head. The heroes we look up to train very hard to be ready for the big moment. Firefighters train for a long time before getting on the truck and going to put out fires. The 2008 Olympics wasn’t Michael Phelps’ first time in a pool.
At some point when I grew up, I stopped praying like a kid. Maybe I was embarrassed to ask God for what I really wanted, or maybe I just wasn't so sure He was able or willing to take care of me. I think one of the reasons that Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to children (Matthew 19:14) is because children still believe in a God who cares about every little detail of their lives. They are still courageous enough to ask for miracles when everyone else tells them to not get their hopes up.
Ìâ‰âÂÌâÅÒBlessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.' (Matthew 5:3)
This is one of those Scripture passages that many people 'know' (meaning, they've heard it before) but countless people fail to understand. My own parochial school teacher taught us that it simply meant God loves poor people 'more.'
Ummm, to put it as charitably and bluntly as possible . . . no, that's not what it means . . .
As a result, 'loving your neighbor' has become more of a general accepting of someone for everything they choose to be and do. This idea is summed up as the great 'virtue' of tolerance. On the surface, it seems like a great and honorable ideal. Everyone can do what they want without being judged and nobody hurts anyone else’s feelings.
Yet we find something radically different in the biblical vision of love. In the gospel of John, Jesus says 'No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends' (John 15:13).
Do you ever feel like there's some big secret to becoming a saint and you can't figure out what it is? What did they do to become so awesome? Was there a book they read? A certain prayer they prayed? Does a diet of bread and fish help?
That's what I was wondering. (Not so much the bread and fish part.) God has been teaching me that you become a saint by . . .
We observed workers moving rocks barefoot because they only had one pair of shoes and needed them to last. Families who lived in a landfill without electricity or running water, hoping to make a dollar a day sorting trash. As the mission director, Julia, told us, 'I know that you think that you have problems in the U.S., but compared to what we have here, you live in heaven.' While we had grown up hearing about those in need, our first hand encounter was sobering.
Do you ever look around at all the actresses, singers, athletes and reality stars and wonder why you can't be famous like them? Maybe you pray at night that you'll get 'discovered' on YouTube. Or maybe you want to get famous spreading God's word. That can't be bad, can it? After all, can't you do more for him as a celebrity than as an average person?
If you're on the interweb, you've seen #YOLO unfold in a series of tweets or status updates of shenanigans involving late nights, red bull, and impulsive hair dye. I don’t find the choices in these updates all that inspiring.
That was a tough question, but the next one worried me:
'Was I afraid to talk with God, to be honest with Him, and listen to Him even if I didn't like it?'
I had to think about it for a while. I realized that while I trusted God with most things, there was still one thing that I avoided … Confession. I would go to Mass every Sunday and pray throughout the day asking for help or thanking Him, but I didn't like sharing my weaknesses with Him.
It seems a little unfair honestly. There are all these crazy and dramatic details in the story of Pentecost, and my life is so mundane in contrast. I want the Holy Spirit to work in powerful ways in my life too.
So what's stopping Him?
Me. I'm stopping Him. I'm scared and I'll admit it . . .
God offers us His grace and mercy every day, especially through the Eucharist. Because the tomb is empty, we have freedom. When Jesus descended into Hell he took sin and shame with Him. He left them there, where they belong. It is because Jesus rose that we are free. God's mercy is so big. St. John Vianney put it beautifully when he said, 'Our sins are nothing but a grain of sand alongside the great mountain of the mercy of God.'
I don't walk to Communion looking around anymore but I walk up the aisle toward my Bridegroom who is giving himself to me. Imagine, my God lets me hold him in my hands. I gently and deliberately place Him in my mouth. We have the most intimate conversations during those few minutes after I return to my seat and the peace that envelopes me nourishes my soul as earthly food nourishes my body.
… I felt it slipping but didn't know what to do. The ornate, china plate fell to the tile floor.
You know that split second of silence after something shatters on the ground? It’s in that split second that I caught my breath in shock waiting for the reprimand, gasp or look of disapproval. And in that moment, my grandma had a choice.
She would always, no matter what was broken, say something to the effect of: “That’s ok! Don’t worry!” Immediately, that’s what she said to me. No hesitation. I remember asking her about it later and having her tell me, “What’s done is done and it’s no use being upset over.”
I went with Katie the next week … and then again the following week. That piece of bread had the attention of a whole auditorium of people, it had to mean something. Unknowingly I followed her to a moment with Christ that would change my life. Before Adoration, the priest described what we were about to encounter. While I was sitting there, for the first time in my life I allowed myself to be found by God. And for the first time told him where I was. I heard him speaking in His quiet voice, 'Stop looking. You are home'.
One of my favorite things to do is workout. Whether at a gym, running outside, or doing P90X in my home, I love getting my body into shape. (Now, if only I could work on my eating habits a little bit). For me there's just something about the discipline it takes, the feeling I get at the end, and the little results I can see that show me that I am getting healthier.
When I began my faith journey, I was constantly comparing myself to my peers. It's like I was walking into God's kitchen, shaking as I showed my Heavenly Father my report card. I tried to justify all of my sins. I measured my holiness by the sin of others instead of the holiness of God. I turned down the ability for greatness that His grace offered me. I settled for being 'better than most' rather than all that He called me to be. I didn't want to do the work. I eased into a spirit of contentment and lived a spiritual life that was 'good enough.' Others praised me for my 'B' effort in my faith, especially since so many kids my age were so much worse. But I knew I could be better, and I knew that God knew it, too.