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Our Joyful Encounter with the lord pt.2 Encounter. remember. give witness.

Called to 'be more' in expressing the joy of the Gospel

(Section 1, published Dec. 18, 2017)

An encounter with Jesus is at the heart of the Christian journey.Spanish download link

But that encounter is not the end. After we have encountered the Lord, we must remember this encounter as the source of our life and witness.

Salvation history teaches us the significance of remembering our encounters with the Lord. The Book of Judges tells of a repeated cycle in which Israel forgets its covenant with God and recounts the disastrous consequences of this failure to remember. Psalm 105 provides a beautiful recollection of God's faithfulness, and a call to remain mindful of all that God has done: "Remember the wonderful works He has done, His miracles, and the judgment He uttered, O offspring of His servant Abraham, children of Jacob, His chosen ones." As Pope Francis points out: "The joy of evangelizing always arises from grateful remembrance" ("Evangelii Gaudium" 13).

From reading the Gospels and from the examples of holy men and women, we know how important this grateful remembrance is. To put it starkly: even Judas had a profound encounter with the Lord. He failed, as the Pharisees failed, to foster a grateful remembrance of that encounter. If we don't foster grateful remembrance, we court their fate.

In addition to encounter and grateful remembrance, we must give witness to our experience of the saving love of God in Christ Jesus. This is true even when we don't feel prepared or seem to have all the answers. Pope Francis challenges us on this point:

"(A)nyone who has truly experienced God's saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love ... If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim Him joyfully: "We have found the Messiah!" (John 1:41). The Samaritan woman became a missionary immediately after speaking with Jesus and many Samaritans come to believe in Him "because of the woman's testimony" (John 4:39). So too, St. Paul, after his encounter with Jesus Christ, "immediately proclaimed Jesus" (Acts 9:20; 22:6-21). So what are we waiting for?" ("Evangelii Gaudium" 120)

Being more: Prayer and action

Encounter. Grateful remembrance. Joyful witness. It might seem overwhelming. The question nobody probably wants to hear is: How can we do more?

But let's step back for a moment. Our first call as missionary disciples isn't necessarily to do more. Our first call is to be more.

What does that mean?

In part, it means avoiding the temptation to jump into mission without cultivating fertile ground in which to plant seeds of evangelization. When the soil is rich, the outward manifestations of our faith come more easily and bear greater fruit.

How do we build a foundation in Christ? First and foremost, by becoming a people of prayer.

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org

Too often our contemporary world is skeptical, distrustful and hostile toward prayer. Many struggle to find the value and effectiveness of prayer, especially when confronted by human brokenness, tragedy and violence. Appeals to prayer can be interpreted as inauthentic: "But it doesn't do anything."

We aren't asked to choose between prayer and action — Christians know that's a false dichotomy. Rather, we're called to make prayer the root of our action.

Mother Teresa was a great example of this. She spent an hour every day praying before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. She made it part of the Rule of Life for all Missionaries of Charity. When asked why they took this precious time for prayer, especially when there were so many practical demands on their time and energy, she explained: "because we find that through our daily holy hour our love for Jesus becomes more intimate, our love for each other more understanding, and our love for the poor more compassionate."

For Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity — and for us — there's no choice between prayer and action. Instead, there is an intimate connection between the two.

In the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), Jesus reminds Martha that being with Him is what matters most, whatever tasks we may have to face. The Martha in each of us needs to recognize that being in communion with God in prayerful contemplation comes first. When we have listened attentively to Jesus' words, our solidarity with others will be more profound.

To be missionary disciples we have to remain attentive to these two interrelated dimensions of our Christian journey.

"(W)ithout prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God's presence" ("Evangelii Gaudium" 259).

Models of being more

The Catholic tradition contains great examples of men and women who have lived this careful balance of prayer and action.

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, one of the patrons of our archdiocese, is an excellent example of what it means to "be more" through prayer and action. St. Rose Philippine's witness has a timely significance for us today in our local Church. As a woman, religious, immigrant and missionary, her story might speak to us at different levels. In this brief reflection on her life and work, I want to highlight her identity as an immigrant-missionary (I encourage you to visit her shrine in St. Charles for a more detailed appreciation of her story and contributions).

It's truly amazing to see God's work in her life as an immigrant-missionary. We can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her to undertake the journey from her homeland to the New World. She had to leave behind the comforts of her close friends, family, religious community, culture and language. Yet, she never abandoned her childhood dream of the mission.

We know from her biographies that she remained committed to her deeper longing of one day serving as a missionary to the Native Americans in the New World. And, after a lifelong wait, at age 72, she finally realized her own ambition of serving the Native Americans through a mission to the Potawatomi in Kansas. As an immigrant-missionary she struggled with learning at least two new languages, English and Potawatomi. Rather than let this be an obstacle to her witness, she became known as the "woman who prays always." Even though she wasn't able to speak to the Native Americans in their own tongue, they recognized her faithfulness and zeal. Many came to know Jesus because of her witness.

Each of us is called to imitate St. Rose Philippine Duchesne in her faithfulness to God's call no matter what the circumstances and the worldly view of success. Her commitment to her dream of being a missionary, her devotional life and prayer are good examples of a life lived in contemplation and action.

St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower

Another example of "being more" in prayer and action is St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. This great 20th-century saint is the patroness of missions for the Universal Church, even though she lived most of her short life in a cloistered convent. St. Therese dedicated herself to "the little way," offering up her every moment and act of every day to Christ for the salvation of souls. For St. Therese, "Holiness consists simply in doing God's will, and being just what God wants us to be."

St. Therese is an especially potent example for our young people. She entered the convent while quite young. She didn't let her youth stand as an obstacle for gaining holiness or having a profound impact upon the Church. Her example of prayer and little acts of kindness shows all of us how significant our ordinary lives can be. As she says, "Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love."

Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Finally, consider Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Father Jean Corbon once wrote that "the most fruitful human activity is to receive the love of God." Mary is the perfect example of this truth. Mary received the Word of God, nurtured the Word in her womb, and brought Him forth for the salvation of others. She is a great model for what it means to be more. Each of us, in our own way, can receive the Word, nurture Him in our hearts in prayer, and bring Him forth in our actions.

But is it really possible for us to follow Mary's example? Pope Francis thinks so. He states: "The close connection between Mary, the Church and each member of the faithful, based on the fact that each in his or her own way brings forth Christ, has been beautifully expressed by Blessed Isaac of Stella: 'In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary... In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God's word, a mother of Christ, His daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful... Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary's womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church's faith. He will dwell forever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul'" ("Evangelii Gaudium" 285).

We have our own ways of receiving the love of God, nurturing it in prayer, and bringing it forth in action for the sake of others. We don't need to do big things. We need to do every little thing in God's love.

If we can begin, even in little ways, to live like these holy women in our daily lives we, too, can make Jesus known in a profound and powerful way that can transform the world.

A Challenge — Practical steps for being more

In our effort to live the Joy of the Gospel and to be missionary disciples, we must be willing to be challenged and to grow, so allow me to challenge you to be more in a few different areas of your life.

At home: Commit to daily prayer and personal accountability. Invite a roommate, your spouse or a friend to walk with you in your pursuit of Christian virtue and holiness. This shared discipleship is a great aid in pursuing missionary discipleship.

As a parish: Commit to providing opportunities for the members of your parish to grow as missionary disciples together. Offer a monthly communal adoration night, faith formation opportunities for youth and adults and set up extra opportunities for confession beyond the normal Saturday hours.

In your community: Let your life and your words witness the joy of the Gospel. Talk to a neighbor or co-worker about your faith. Share your energy and your passion for growing closer to the Lord as a missionary disciple and invite others to evaluate their relationship with God. Commit to regular acts of service that require your time, not just your money.

To read part 3 of "Our Joyful Encounter with the Lord", visit:

stlouisreview.com/jFk

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