By Losing Your Life For Christ, You Will Gain It

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We know how frustrated it can be to realize the GPS is taking us in the wrong direction especially if we are already late and the weather is bad.  Or in school we are taking courses that make no sense and you wonder: where are we going with Spanish and calculus or whatever?

Sometimes on a more serious note, we can have this same feeling in life and even in church.  It can appear at church we are always being asked to come to Mass, to go to penance, to give money, to help with this or that, etc.

Yet on an0ther level, a spiritual one, at the level of your heart and mind it could be that we weren’t really being asked for anything.  There was no particular aim or goal in sight, no mile markers or directional signs.  It may seem like there is no end in sight.

Christianity is a journey to follow Jesus Christ and to have his same spirit.  To be a disciple means to be one who is learning about myself and about God.  This always takes time and is not necessarily linear.    A journey is made up of steps and this is what this series will be about for the next several weeks.  There are simple steps to be a disciple.  They are not easy but they are simple.

We have come up with specific ones that we think will help you to grow and strengthen your faith in Christ, and they will transform you.  They are life style choices that will help you to grow in faith, to grow in your relationship with Christ.

So over the next few weeks we are going to take a look at them.  But I invite you not to look at them with a sense of duty or obligation but simply as a response to the invitation of Christ who said: follow me.  The point is not to get you to do more stuff since you are up to your eyeballs already.  Rather what we are suggesting is a way to simplify your life.  It is not that we want everyone to do this together but to reflect and see where the Lord is leading you and to take the right STEP for you.

Don’t look at them as boxes you need to check off; or hoops you need to jump through in order to make the team.  This is different.  If you see them as obligations it will weaker their potential effectiveness and you may lose the chance to change yourself, or better to allow God to change you.

We call them STEPS because they are meant to be taken one at a time as God calls you to them.  We encourage you to take the right step for you.  Not to do them all at the same time, but to take the one that is right for you at this moment.

STEPS is an acronym where S stands for service or servant, as Jesus came to serve and not to be served.  As a Christian it is crucial that you learn to serve, generously and freely, for the benefit of others, and make a difference for them.  A Christian serves for the benefit of others.  It is not to shine or to look good, but simply to make life a bit easier for your parents, or your siblings, or your boss.  Many adults have gotten through life and never really learned how to serve.  It doesn’t necessarily mean at a meal, but to be a help in the house often has to do with the kitchen.  For example, do you ever help out without getting a reminder?

T is about tithing or giving.  Nothing will grow your faith as much as making a willful act of giving each week, as opposed to just throwing something in the basket.  Jesus said you cannot serve God and mammon.  It is either one or the other.  Money and possessions and security are the greatest competitors God has for our hearts.  Usually it is the greatest obstacle of trusting God, and Jesus talks about it all the time.  Time, money and possessions give us a huge opportunity to put our faith into action.  Maybe I can see that with my family I am very stingy with time.  And with money I am even worse.  God is a giver, and is always generous.  I ought to be more like him.

E is to engage in a small group like the upcoming catechesis which will start on Oct. 15 this year.  Faith can only grow when it is lived with others.  Because today it is not enough just to hear about a topic; I need to discuss what it means and how I would live it in my life.  It needs to be supported by the people, who know me and can encourage me.

P is the practice of prayer and sacraments.  To grow as a follower of Christ, you need to speak to him, to get to know him.  To recognize him and hear his voice in a daily quiet time that brings us back to the words of Christ.  We need a daily time where we can speak to him and he can talk to us, so I have to learn how to listen, even to my friends, and not be the one always blabbing.

Lastly, we speak of Sharing our faith with others.  As disciples we are stewards of what God has given us.  It is not something I can buy or earn.  We don’t deserve what God is doing for us and for our parish.  We are not better than anyone else.  Yet I hope you are learning how God is helping you and that you have a desire to speak of that to others.  There is only one thing that I can do with my faith…share it.  This more than anything will help it to grow.

Life will ask us one day: who is Christ for you?  We want to give a true answer like Peter did (Mark 8: 27-35) and follow the challenge that we hear today: to take up your cross.  Carry it cheerfully.  We do this every day by the small sacrifices made to study, or help others, or to avoid sins.  Everyday there is a secret battle going on in my life:  do I lose my life for the sake of the Christ, or do I try to save it for myself.  When I let it go, let go of my plans, my ideas, my whatever, then I gain my life.  It is a great paradox of faith.