Surviving High School, eh? When I think back on junior year, what are the lessons I’d pass on about having a great time… hmm. I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks, and I think I can sum it up in one sentence. Bring on the haters.
By your third year of high school, my guess is that you’ve got some idea of who you are. It might not be locked down, and you might not know where exactly you’re going, but you know… you. The pedal is hitting the metal, and not just in your new car. If freshman year was about surveying the playing field, and sophomore year was learning the game… this is when you put on the pads and get in the game.
And as long as we live in the world, there will be people who are ready to persecute us for that – since the beginning of Christianity, there have been people who love to hate on Christians. (Example #1: The Cross, 33 A.D.)
Umm… Our Father, Anybody?
When we’re attacked about our faith, the first instinct inside us is to strike back. We try to damage others as much as they’ve hurt us. That’s a dangerous place to be. It’s not a very Catholic mindset we’re in when we focus on revenge or one-upmanship. Was anyone paying attention while they were saying, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us?”
Look to the lives of the Saints. They were boiled alive, publicly disgraced, falsely imprisoned, tortured, beaten, exiled, and even worse. For some reason, though, we don’t have stories of their revenge or how they returned to slay their enemies. Let your persecution be a martyrdom. “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.” – Matthew 5:11.
Get Rite With Jesus
One of the most popular Catholic things online is the field of “apologetics:” the study of how to articulate and debate points on the faith with people of other religions. Wherever you go in the Catholic world, someone’s there with a new book, resource, or website that has all the steps you’ll need to defend your faith.
Guess what? They don’t have all the steps. Until you’re willing to abandon the ownership of truth to God, you’re wasting your time. Far too often (and I’m saying this too because I loved to do it in high school) we use apologetics as a weapon to slay the enemies of the Church.
Here’s the thing: you’re here to be an example. A witness. An evangelist. Just think about how many people you’ve heard arguing over religion, trying to out-talk their opponent into submission. Have you ever seen someone come to Christ that way?
The best way to defend your faith is to know the Person at the center of it. The closer your relationship with Christ, the more grace you have in your daily life, the greater witness you will be. Remember, wisdom and right judgment are gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12). Root yourself in the sacraments, cover yourself in grace, and walk into your school knowing God’s with you.
(‘Anathema’ is a Latin word from when the Church would declare someone excommunicated.) Some of the greatest saints in the Church’s history are known for taking on the heresies of their day. From Albigensianism (spirit good, flesh bad) to Arianism (Jesus wasn’t divine), there have been a lot of heresies. And for every heresy, old and new, there’s an answer.
Now you might be thinking, “Wait Greg. Didn’t you just talk about why not to do apologetics like three paragraphs ago?” And I stick by this – understanding our faith isn’t a weapon; it’s a shield. Apologetics and spiritual knowledge exist to defend truth, not you. See the difference? When we’re attacked for loving Christ, we’re given an opportunity to respond in a simple example of love – and the devil hates that. It’s when someone attacks Christ and his bride that we spring into the action of defending the faith. It’s right there in the phrase. Defending the faith.
Junior year you’re going to have a lot going on in life… but in the midst of it all, remember to be like Christ. You never know just who you’ll be a witness to today.