Sunday, May 17, 2009

Leaving the Upper Room

Tim and I pray together every night before going to sleep. We start our time of prayer with the daily Mass readings and a meditation from The Word Among Us. It being Easter season, many of our reading over the last few weeks have been from the book of Acts. For those who have not spent much time reading the Scriptures, or at least the book of Acts, it is all about building up the church. Jesus had ascended to heaven. His apostles had received the Holy Spirit ( in rather dramatic fashion) and they were now spreading the Gospel to all the world.
It seems every night lately, our reading includes a small sentence that goes something like this, "Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number," from yesterday's Acts 16:5. Or "...they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples.." Acts 14:21. Or even, "...(the church) was being built up and walked in fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers," Acts 9:31. Or this one, "The word of God continued to spread and grow," Acts 12:24. Now I got to thinking, how come it was so easy to convert the people back then, and it seems so impossible today? Was it that the people were hungering more for a Savior back then? Were the stories of Jesus' life and teachings more spectacular? Was the message more meaningful at that time in history?
As I pondered I was sure the answer to all these questions was a resounding, "No!" The world is certainly just as in need of a Savior today. And it is obvious to me, most people are searching, though certainly not in right places most of the time. Of course, Jesus' life and teachings are still significant. That is the beauty of the Scriptures- they are timeless. They are alive in our lives today! The Gospel message is for all time and is certainly as applicable to our modern, busy lives as it was in Biblical times. So....what is missing today that our church is NOT increasing in number and strength each day but instead seems to dwindle in apathy?
I believe it is us. As Catholic Christians, we are often missing the zeal and passion the early church fathers had. We are missing the self confidence to go forth and share the gospel with the world. Instead I see us, strong Catholics, often huddled together as if in the upper room. We are sharing our faith, but mostly with each other! We are confident in our beliefs but keep it within the walls of our own churches and homes. My friends and neighbors know I am Catholic, they know what being Catholic means to me, but I rarely attempt to share it with them. I never invite neighbors, or non-Catholic acquaintances to learn more about the church, or to join me at Mass. I do not talk with them about all the amazing things God has done in my life. Sure, I smile and wave occasionally. I make small talk about the weather from time to time. I comment on how big their kids are getting. But when it comes to my faith, I tend to stick to the "upper room" of my Catholic home schooling group, my friends from Church, my Teams of our Lady group and ignore the needs of the rest of the world.
The disciples at the time of the Acts of the Apostles spent every waking moment committed to sharing Jesus with others. Their mission was to take the Gospel to all the ends of the Earth and they were tireless in that mission. They were not afraid of how it would be received. And, it was certainly their zeal and commitment that made people stand up and listen. They were not only preaching, but living out fully, the message of the Gospel. They were loving God and their neighbors (even their Gentile neighbors) completely and with their whole lives. People on the "outside" saw all this and wanted to be on the "inside!" They wanted a part of this life of faith. And so, when the disciples started to preach and share their stories and experiences, of course, everyone listened with rapt attention!
We must be as excited about our faith! We must be as courageous about living and sharing it! The Holy Spirit is within us and ready to guide us in our mission to share the Gospel! May we be as tireless in spreading Jesus' message! If we are willing and excited, they will come! God will bring others closer to Him through our efforts and save our friends and neighbors from their own apathy!

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