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by Matthew Kelly
by Father Bob Sherry
It’s hard to be Christian. It’s easy to say, “I’m a Christian.” But to really live it is difficult and I often think the first mistake we make is not acknowledging that. You see, when you don’t acknowledge that something is difficult, you have lost in many ways from the beginning, because difficult things need to be approached with much more focus and intentionality than easy things.
Yesterday I was walking down the street in a city I will not name, and as I walked along the foot path, a driver almost ran me over going into his driveway. He saw me, but he didn’t care. He was in a hurry or just too impatient to wait. He parked, jumped out of his car, and started screaming obscenities at me as if I had done something wrong.
I wanted to do something. If I was a violent person I am certain that I would have wanted to hit him or kick his car. I took note of his car and his house… and for a moment my mind started to think about how I could have revenge. I’m not proud of it, but my mind went places that were anything but Christian.
It was small things and I was already in a bad mood, so that didn’t help. But even my thoughts were not Christian.
There is a way to live as a Christian – a way to think, to speak, and to act… and often I fall short in all three areas. It is difficult to be Christian. It is hard to live the teachings of Jesus Christ.
It is something that requires constant vigilance, daily effort, and never something that just happens.
The first step is to acknowledge that it is difficult so that we can assign the correct amount of effort required for success.
Preaching is usually boring. Jesus does not usually preach. What does He do? He dances.
— From “Jesus Shock” by Dr. Peter Kreeft
Preaching is usually boring. Jesus does not usually preach. What does He do? He dances. Ultimately, He dances on His own grave. He rises from the dead not just on Easter Sunday but every day forever after that, like a jack-in-the-box. The Bible is a pop-up book. To put the point in duller, less symbolic language, Jesus keeps bursting asunder all our comfortable categories and keeps transcending all our feeble expectations. He is “full of grace and truth,” and I think “grace” includes not just something morally good but also aesthetically good; not just “gift” but also “style”. He is full of the grace of a Chopin nocturne, the grace of a Michael Jordan slam-dunk. He is God’s supreme surprise.
In my travels recently, I met a man about my age at a St. Patrick’s day party. He offered that his loving wife died recently. Although Catholic, she was non-practicing. But since her death, in his search to reach out of his loneliness and depression, he started attending the RCIA at the nearby Catholic Church. With spirit and vibrancy he exclaimed how the Rite was changing his life and giving it meaning he wished he had years before.
Yes, God works in mysterious ways: from a depressed state to a rejoicing heart, even as a new widower. Was there a moment in your life where you began living in an elevated manner? And did it have something to do with hearing the Good News as if for the first time? How did it come to you?
And, how do you share your joy with others? The sharing must come from your heart. From your experience. You know in your heart that “all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28); but if you can proclaim the event that worked out for good by the hand of God, all the more effective for bringing others to the Table of the Lord.
The Fourth Sign of a dynamic Catholic is evangelization. Find a few simple ways to share the joy of your life in The Spirit. Easter is soon upon us; many people are yearning for a new life. How could you let them know about yours?
Let me know how you did it. FrBob.Sherry@dynamiccatholic.com
Christmas Eve 2012 my brother was visiting for the holidays and we accepted an invitation for dinner at a friend's home. Already having plans for Christmas morning, the two of us attended 8 P.M. Mass at a neighboring parish. As I was leaving Mass, an usher handed me a neatly wrapped package. I initially declined – concerned that by taking the gift intended for parishioners I would cause them to run short. The usher handing out the packages asked me if I was Catholic and when I replied “yes” she handed the package back to me and wished me a “Merry Christmas.” Now, I’ve always been an avid reader so I was delighted to find I had received a book. It was a copy of Matthew Kelly’s The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.
Not long into the New Year, I read the book and as they say, “became engaged.” I longed to read more by this interesting author whose writing seemed so relevant and whose words seemed to speak directly to me. I looked up the Dynamic Catholic website and saw that Matthew Kelly was going to be at Holy Family Catholic Church in Orlando, just a couple of hours from me, the following month. Since my home parish in Jacksonville is also “Holy Family” it seemed as if the Holy Spirit was at work here and that I was being called. Instead of ordering a new book for myself, I ordered 6 copies of The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic (thinking I could share with my Catholic friends) and a ticket to hear Matthew Kelly present Living Every Day with Passion & Purpose in Orlando.
The church where the event was held was standing room only and the crowd was not disappointed. The presentation was meaningful and inspiring. Attending the speaking event in Orlando only served to further advance my longing to take the next step; to become more engaged. The entire trip home I kept wondering what I could do to make a difference in my faith life and in my parish.
As these things often happen, the Holy Spirit soon presented me with a suitable opportunity. Our pastor has a bi-monthly dinner at the rectory to get to know his parishioners. I signed up to be one of the 12 people attending dinner that week.
I sat quietly most of the evening. It wasn’t until the conversation came around to how we could get more people involved in our parish that I felt compelled to speak. I briefly described my own journey with The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic book and its impact on my perspective and desire to participate in the parish. I mentioned that I thought the parish could use the Dynamic Catholic Book Program as a way of increasing parishioner participation. The next week I took copies of the book to the church office for our pastor, the deacon, and the church receptionist.
About that same time our church decided to start a retreat program called Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) and I registered to participate. I made my retreat in April and worked six months to present the next CRHP retreat in October. The preparation was time intensive and a few weeks prior to the October retreat I wondered what I would do afterward. I shook it off with the old adage ‘one day at a time.’ Three days later I got a call from the deacon asking if I’d represent my parish for ticket sales to a Matthew Kelly event here in Jacksonville. My heart said “yes and yes!” I met with the diocesan event coordinator and guess where the event was being held-the same church I received my Christmas gift book from the year before. Needless to say I jumped on board.
To top it off, our pastor gave the go ahead to participate in the Dynamic Catholic book program purchasing The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic for our parish last Christmas (2013). I had come full circle. As I helped wrap 1,500 books as Christmas presents to our parishioners, I couldn’t help but reflect on the path I’d been on during the past twelve months, and what it means to open yourself up to what the Lord has in mind for you.
Want to share your story? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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