How’s this for a motivational inspirational speech from Saint Paul?
“Consider your own calling brothers and sisters!”
Ok, we’re off to a good start — You’re called! You’re chosen! God drew you here to Church today — think about that!
“Consider your own calling brothers and sisters!”
…And then he says this:
“Not many of you were wise by human standards.
Not many were powerful.
Not many were of noble birth.
Not many of you are smart.
Not many of you have much influence, talent, skill…
Not many of you have a whole lot to offer!
Not many of you are impressive… AT ALL!”
Are you feeling inspired yet?
But really… what a beautiful gift this is — that we’re not very impressive. We human beings… mere mortals .. we’re dust. We are practically nothing.
And that’s actually a GIGANTIC gift!
Because then Paul reveals the heart of his message:
“God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”
The early Church understood this, as counterintuitive as it may seem! They knew it was to their advantage that they were NOT very impressive. That they had practically NOTHING going for them.
There’s this book out there by Msgr. James Shea called “From Christendom to Apostolic Mission” and it’s a really powerful little book if you’ve never heard of it before.
The basic idea of the book is this: There are two modes that the Church operates from: There’s “Christendom mode” and then there’s “Apostolic mode.”
What he means by “Christendom mode” is whenever the Church is really well established. When we have all of our institutions built up and stabilized… Hospitals, universities, charity organizations. When we have real political influence… When we have most of the people throughout the world professing to be believers. When we have plenty of money and resources at our fingertips. When the world-view — the assumed cultural perspective — is predominantly Catholic.
That’s Christendom-mode… and the Church has enjoyed living that way for a good portion of Her existence… but it wasn’t always like that!
At the very beginning, the Church had to operate from what he calls an “Apostolic mode.”
Here’s what they had at the beginning. And it’s not very impressive.
Bishops? They had 11.
Priests? They had the same number.
Deacons? Sorry Deacon [Insert Name] — they had none!
Trained theologians? None.
Religious orders? None.
Seminarians? How many seminarians did the apostles have on their Seminarian poster? None!
Seminaries where they would train seminarians? None!
Christian believers… how many Christian believers were there: A few hundred maybe.
Countries with Christians in them? One!
Church buildings: None.
Schools and universities: None
Written gospels??? None!
Money… very little.
Experience in foreign missions? None!
Influential contacts in high places: Next to none.
Societal attitude towards the church? It was either ignorant — most people had no idea what the disciples were even talking about…or they were hostile to Christianity. Martyrdom was normal and even expected.
When you put it all down on paper, that’s not very impressive.
And yet — from that very unimpressive place, the apostles and the first disciples BOASTED IN THE LORD! They boasted in their weakness! They were CONFIDENT.
They could be GLAD that they had nothing, that they were not all that impressive because everything they accomplished… EVERYTHING … think about all the amazing things that they did:
It all had to be from God.
It was so obviously the LORD — because not many of you were wise… not many of you were powerful… not many of you had strategic planning backgrounds… not many of you were experts in the field, not many of you were impressive!
That’s where we’re at right now.
We are entering back into an Apostolic Age.
Christendom as we used to know it… is crumbling. We’re moving into a different sort of age… An age where Christianity is obviously NOT the predominant world view. The methods that used to work…aren’t working anymore.
Institutions that we used to rely on are going to have to think and operate differently. Things that we could just sort of assume would happen aren’t happening anymore — “Of course people are gonna come back to baptize their babies… Of course they’re going to come be married in the Church! Of course all of this is just going to just keep going on and on, with cruise control set — just come to us. We’ll give you what you want and need.”
I’m sorry, but that’s not really the game anymore.
The game is apostolic.
What that means is that we have to go out there — We can’t expect people to just come here.
We can’t just pop in a DVD series and say “Hey come to our nice church building and learn something cool about God” — We need to go out there in ordinary people’s lives and yes… maybe be a little unimpressive… but allow God to work through us, just like those first apostles and disciples.
That’s amazing. What an amazing time to be a Catholic!
But how are we going to accomplish that mission? Who are we going to equip for this task? What’s the solution?
I’m looking at it right now:
In our first reading from Zephaniah, we heard the prophet say that God was keeping and preserving “a remnant.” A remnant that is “humble and lowly.”
You ARE that apostolic remnant!
And God is going to use you in ways that you don’t even know — you can’t even imagine! Little ways. Humble ways. Powerful ways. Beautiful ways in the peoples lives that you come in contact with on a daily basis. You don’t even have to go that far!
You are going to bring them the Gospel of Jesus!
Now, maybe you want to throw up your hands and say, “But Father — I don’t have a degree in theology! I’m not qualified! I don’t have any training!!! I don’t even know what I’m doing.”
If that’s what you’re thinking: “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m freaked out I’m a little afraid…”
Because now you know — Saint Paul told us — We know that God chose the FOOLISH of the world to shame the wise. He chose the WEAK of the world to shame the strong! He chose the unimpressive — the people without theology degrees to go out there and make our faith believable for the whole world.
That’s so freeing isn’t it?
Once we realize that like I don’t have to be impressive. I don’t have to pretend and perform… I don’t have to be something that I’m not. I can just be myself, get close to God, grow in holiness, make room for the Holy Spirit, and that itself will transform the world around me.
Sherry Weddell in her book, “Fruitful Discipleship” said this:
“There is no such thing as missional unemployment for the baptized.”
Nobody in this church right now — nobody in any pew — not a single one of you is unemployed in the church.
Now, not all of you volunteer at St Bede’s maybe… Not all of you work in the parish office, right? Not all of you are lectors…Not all of you are Eucharistic ministers. Not all of you perform those kind of more visible roles… but none of you is unemployed!
We need ALL of you to be out there…in the world… being Christians.
I’m not interested in making you all volunteers — Our goal is NOT to make everyone professional church people.
It would be a horrible thing if what it meant to be an amazing, active Catholic disciple was that you volunteer at the parish all the time. As beautiful as those roles are — if that’s the absolute height of Christian discipleship, then only a few select people are all that religious! Only a rare handful of folks are called to be holy.
For most of you, God is calling you to be out there…
To be Catholic in your office.
To be Catholic in the restaurant you work at.
To be Catholic in your school.
To be Catholic in the living room where your family gathers
Or the family dinner table.
He’s calling you to be Catholic in that sports league that you’re a part of, or the trivia night that you go to with your friends, or the Bridge club…
The Lord is asking you, inviting you and calling you — maybe unimpressive and unqualified as you might feel — to be a Catholic precisely there, wherever you are.
To radiate your Catholic identity…
And what’s the game plan? What are you supposed to be radiating exactly?
God is calling us all to be poor in spirit — Blessed are the poor in spirit, completely, utterly dependent on God wherever you find yourself!
Blessed are those who mourn — who weep with those who weep, but with firm hope and courage in their hearts.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness — to desire justice, to desire a person’s wholeness and healing!
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. To be mercy for the people around you.
Blessed are the pure of heart! To strive to sincerely desire the good the true and the beautiful in all circumstances
Blessed are the peacemakers! How blessed are those who are working hard to alleviate all the anger, bitterness, and discouragement that’s just so oppressive in our world today.
Blessed are you who are willing to be persecuted — willing to be HATED! …We gotta be willing to be hated. If we’re not willing to be hated today then we’re not willing to Christians!
Blessed are you who are willing to be persecuted hated, and even insulted, for the sake of Jesus wherever you happen to be. Your reward will be great in heaven.
Wherever you might be, whoever you are friends with…. whoever you have a relationship with! Your family members. Your acquaintances. Those people are your mission field. You’re being sent by God… to them!
Pope Pius XII once said that “the laity are the front line — the front line of the church’s life!”
You are on the front line. A lot of people think: “Oh but father, the priests are the front line — you’re the guy — you’re the professional church guy!”
I have my own unique role, yes, but YOU ALL ARE THE FRONT LINE.
Wow! How amazing is that? — That God would would choose all of you in such small and simple, beautiful ways to reach the whole world — to fulfill the great commission: “GO! go out there and make disciples of all nations.”
GO! And radiate the beatitudes together out there — and then come back here to the altar.
We worship God here. We lift up the body and blood of Jesus — we are nourished and fed to do what? To go out again! We go out, we come back. we go out we come back — gathering in everyone.
Blessed are we! We are so lucky to be already employed in the kingdom of God. Maybe we don’t feel all that impressive… but we are loved intensely by God. And He is going to do amazing things through each and everyone of us. I believe that. Now… GO. Let’s be Apostolic.