“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi
As a former teen in the LIFE TEEN Program, I look back on my days in high school and remember the church as constant and comfortable. A lot has changed, and change is difficult. Some things are expected to change, like getting a new Youth Minister or new people coming on CORE. Priest move from one parish to another all the time.
But beyond my parish, our Catholic Church has dealt with a lot in the past five years. Some of it is bad, like the priest abuse scandal. Then some is good, like the excitement of getting a new pope. There is a lot of pressure put on Church leaders to carry us through tough times like these. But it’s time to step up and share the responsibility and becoming leaders ourselves. In times of transition we need to do our best to build up the body of Christ and prevent any unnecessary disruption.
For the past year, I’ve worked in the construction industry. What I learned is that whether you are on a construction site or trying to build a good church community, God has given us essential “Power Tools” to carry out His work.
- Words – Jack Hammer
- Truth – Nail Gun
- Action – Paint Sprayer
“In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze” – James 3:5
Words! We use them all day, every day. They are our main source of communicating, and yet because we use them so much, we forget their strength and importance. The first power tool we will talk about is a jackhammer, because like a jackhammer our words can be instantly destructive. I remember in high school when I went to ask a girl to the big dance and she told me, “No” my world was thrown upside down. Just one word had the power to bring me from complete joy, to complete despair.
One particular way that our words could be used to tear down the body of Christ is through gossip. It has become such a large part of our society that we have television shows and magazines to keep us updated on celebrity gossip, even political gossip. In our schools, classmates are tearing each other down with their tongues as they mock one another whether it’s a friend or not.
Sometimes you wonder what is gossip and what is not. Gossip is anything ungodly that you are not willing to say to someone’s face. The Bible is filled with many references on gossip, which exudes its importance, but the best author on this subject is James. James saw the powers of gossip spark the hatred and envy eventually leading to Jesus’ death, which could be the reason why he devoted a portion of His book to this subject. “If any man among you seems to be religious, and bridles not His tongue, but deceives His own heart, this man’s religion is vain (James 1:26).” Every time that we speak ungodly of someone behind their back we are in fact killing them and ourselves spiritually.
So many of us are blind to how much we judge others. This happens mostly when we decide what does and does not make someone a good Catholic. We walk through the hallways at school proud of that we are holier than others, and we look down on people who’ve sinned and done bad things. It is at this point that we begin to realize how far away from Christ we actually are.
Paul reminds us in His letter to the Colossians exactly why we have no room to pass judgment on our peers, “As a result, there is no longer any distinction between Gentiles and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarians, savages, slaves, and free, but Christ is all, Christ is in all (Colossians 3:11).” Christ is in all of us, good or bad. So every time that we persecute our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in fact tearing down the body of Christ, which we are all a part of.
Nail Gun = Truth
“Do not let your kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” – Proverbs 3:3
When constructing a house the most important part of the building process is the structure. The framework of the structure holds the house together, which is connected to the foundation for strength. In this section I have related the truth of our church to a nail gun
because it is the nails that bind all of the boards of wood together, thus making the complete framework. The truth of our faith is what has kept the Catholic Church standing for the past 2000 years. Whether the Church is battling persecution, scandal, or transition, we can always rely on the truth that Jesus laid for us to follow.
Our roots of truth particularly get tested when social conformity is an issue. Unfortunately a lot of Catholics feel that Church doctrine should be changed because the majority of people think so. Recently I was listening to a local radio station and they were giving statistics about what American Catholics want the new pope to change such as the churches stance on, “Birth control, gay marriages, female priests, and euthanasia.” The problem in this situation is that majority does not rule. Jesus never changed His teachings because people didn’t like them. Some of His own followers left him because of His teachings. The Catholic Church continues the teachings of Christ, and still today, His followers leave him.
When we are baptized and confirmed in the spirit we take a vow to God saying that we are going to learn His truth and live His truth. As high school students, we are at the point where we have to stop relying on our youth ministers and CORE members to teach us the truths of the church. It is our responsibility to read the Bible daily and to get a Catechism, so that we are able to understand and defend our faith.
God is the creator of the law and we need to learn, understand, and respect the law he gave us. It is on our shoulders to educate our peers and help them understand why the church takes certain stands on these controversial issues.
Paint Sprayer = Actions
“You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”- James 2:18
Once a house is fully constructed, people typically use paint to determine the character of the house. Recently when my parents bought their house they spent weeks on the color they would paint their walls. So much time was spent on the color of paint for our house, because when people visit they see the paint on the walls and not the structure holding the walls up. This is why I compared the paint sprayer to our actions. People outside of the church don’t see what’s on the inside; they just look at the “paint,” or our actions, as a representative of the Catholic faith.
We know it is important to do the right thing. Students from Catholic high schools and wear uniforms will usually think twice before doing something wrong, because their uniforms represent their school. Yet we forget to acknowledge that when we wear a crucifix around our neck we are representing Christ. Non-Christians look at our actions to determine the effectiveness of Christ’s teachings and a lot of times we fail to give our Lord the respect he deserves. We need to realize that our actions don’t only have an affect on us, but they could also affect the relationship of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Rich Mullins is one of my favorite musicians because of the way he is able to describe His faith. (He wrote the song “Awesome God”.) In one of his songs he relates that faith without works is “As useless as a screen door on a submarine.” I didn’t always believe this; I used to argue that it was possible to get to heaven with faith alone in Christ. The problem with that argument is that when you fall in love with God you have no choice but to be His hands and feet to the world. It wasn’t until I completely surrendered to God that I understood what faith was. Faith is much more than a belief; it is to trust, love, and surrender to your Lord. Thus if we have faith in Christ, we will put that faith to action because of our willingness to trust His decisions, love His word, and surrender to His will.
Summary: Let’s Get to Work!
“Gold and silver are tested by fire, and a person’s heart is tested by the Lord.” – Proverbs 17:3
When I worked for a remodeling company, we would go to a site and demolish a whole house in a few days. It take months to build a new house on top of what we tore down.
the difference between demolition and construction is that when we are tearing things down, we are very careless in our actions. If a hammer flies out of our hand and goes through another wall, it doesn’t matter because everything is coming down. As we build up the house, we have to be more patient with our tools to make sure that they are used properly.
If we want to start building up the body of Christ, the conversion starts in our own hearts. With our hearts fixed on God’s love, constructing His house will become effortless. We just always need to remember to recognize the tools God has blessed us with and to use them to glorify His love. With all of us working together, using our tools properly persecution, scandal, and transition won’t have a chance at shaking this house down.