Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Don't HIde Jesus

By Aimee Millburn

SEPTEMBER 26, 2007 ( - This week I began teaching classes as part of my thesis project, and one of the participants at the first class told a moving story about wearing a crucifix.

He is a cradle Catholic, a middle-aged man who never really knew or understood his faith until a couple of years ago, when he had a real conversion experience. Now he is on fire for Christ. Recently he saw another man wearing a crucifix, and thought to himself, “I should get one of those!”

So he went to a Catholic store, bought a crucifix on a chain, and started wearing it. He is also a teacher, and many, if not most, of his students are non-Catholic and even hostile to Christianity, so he found himself during classes putting the crucifix under his shirt, to avoid awkwardness. But he felt uncomfortable about it, so the other day he decided to go to confession and discuss it with his priest.

As he explained to the priest what he had been doing, he realized: “I have been hiding Jesus. I’ve been putting Him underneath my shirt, so that no one can see Him.” And he began to cry, as he described to the priest what he had been doing.

As he talked, he heard sounds coming from the other side of the screen, and realized: the priest was crying, too. The priest was crying, because someone who loved Jesus had hidden Him away, so no one could see Him.

Now, this priest has an interesting story, too. You see, he is a convert, a former atheist, raised in an atheistic family. But one day as a young man, going for his first ride on a brand new motorcycle, excited and not looking where he was going, he rammed into a car that had stopped right in front of him in the street.

He was thrown 50 feet through the air – and landed on his feet, unhurt. The police said it was a miracle, that there is no way a person could be thrown that far, and land unhurt on his feet.
But what’s more, he landed facing the house of a friend he’d gone to school with, who happened to be a Catholic. That accident, where he was miraculously saved in front of a Catholic home, made him realize there is a God – and that God had saved him because He was calling him for something.

And God was calling him. The young man converted to Catholicism, entered seminary, and was ordained a priest in Rome by Pope John Paul II several years ago. He is now one of the most dynamic and committed young “John Paul II” priests in this diocese.

A few days ago he broke down into tears, to hear that someone who loves Jesus had nevertheless been ashamed and hidden Him away, so no one could see Him. And the two men, priest and parishioner, wept together in the confessional, that someone who loved Jesus had hidden Him away.

Pope Paul VI, in his document Evangelii Nuntiandi: On Evangelization In The Modern World (1975), said of evangelization,

The gospel must be proclaimed by witness. . . . Nevertheless . . . even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified – what Peter called always having “your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have” – and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. (21, 22)

Pope John Paul II echoed and developed his thought in his great document on the laity, Christifideles Laici: On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World (1988):

The images taken from the gospel of salt, light and leaven, although indiscriminately applicable to all Jesus' disciples, are specifically applied to the lay faithful. . . . They tell of the radical newness and unique character of an involvement and participation which has as its purpose the spreading of the Gospel that brings salvation. (15)

The dignity as a Christian . . . brings demands, the dignity of labourers called by the Lord to work in his vineyard: "Upon all the lay faithful, then, rests the exalted duty of working to assure that each day the divine plan of salvation is further extended to every person, of every era, in every part of the earth." (17)

We the laity, every one of us, are called to evangelize every single person in the world. And we cannot do this, if we are ashamed and hide Jesus away so no one can see Him. We must not be ashamed, and must make Him visible. As Paul said,

So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. (2 Tim 1:8)
And, as Jesus Himself said,

Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mk 8:38)

So let’s not be ashamed - for then Jesus will be ashamed of us. Let’s make Jesus visible, out of joy and love, and show Him around to people, so He may be seen, known, loved, and worshipped – and souls may be saved. For there is no other name under heaven by which souls may be saved, than the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). And then Jesus will be proud of us, and at the end of our lives we will hear the blessed words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Conversion as Christian Longing Fulfilled

By Aimee Milburn

Dave Hartline at Catholic Report has pointed me to another beautiful conversion story, thoughtfully told in a series of installments by a man who traveled many different roads of Protestantism, from charismatic Evangelicalism to Anglicanism, before finding his home in the Catholic Church. You can read the whole story here, but below are a few excerpts I particularly loved:

Though I probably read more than most converts, Catholicism is not an intellectual abstraction; all roads lead to the Mass, and the Mass is a physical, sensory, emotional, mystical, and spiritual experience.
. . .
Though I could not fully articulate my thoughts, I had reached the limits of Protestantism. Protestant churches can deliver rich flavors but never Christian fullness under one roof. I did not want to be part of a church; I wanted to embrace the Church. I did not set out to become Catholic; I marched forward to know God and was surprised by joy when I found Him among those people who teach seven sacraments, venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints, and organize more soup kitchens and bingo nights than tent revivals. . . . I was a lifelong Christian who was beginning to see continuity and harmony in the Church through her sacraments, authority, moral teaching, saints, prayer, liturgy, and history.
. . .
All my longings as a Protestant I found fulfilled in Catholic sacraments: intimacy with our Savior, Truth with a capital “T,” reverence for sacred scripture, discipline and beauty in liturgy, the regular celebration of the Eucharist, the experience of the Holy Spirit in tangible and memorable ways, unity in marriage, and charity for all. Yes, the Church has its many imperfections, but I was startled to learn from reading Church history that there is no problem in the Church today that was not present in every century. By the Holy Spirit, the Church keeps doing what Jesus ordained her to do. Priests, bishops, and laymen may let the Church down, but the Holy Spirit always gives the Church a holy shove in the right direction at the very moment that all the critics and pundits have declared her hopelessly corrupt and irrelevant.

For myself, I have found that to be the truth as well. There is a fullness of truth and a reality of unity here that transcends differences and heals over divisions again and again. I can only conclude that it truly is Christ, working in the power of His Holy Spirit, to protect, guide, and grow His One Church, as He promised He would do from the very beginning, always has, and always will.