Reflections on the Readings
Fifth Sunday of Easter - May 18, 2014 - Year A
Chosen and Precious
Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)
I've been thinking about my relationship with Jesus lately. Whether I have that first love kind of relationship with Him? I remember the ardor of my heart when I first loved him and desired to know Him more and more and to make Him known. So it's a kind of spiritual checkup I'm embracing. Am I truly focused and looking unto Jesus? Do I really believe that there is no other name under heaven in which is my only hope of being saved? And do I seek to be docile to the movements of the Holy Spirit in my life, inviting Him to teach me, to guide me, and through my life glorify Jesus? In my worship do I recognize Him in the breaking of the bread or do I just think Mass is almost over?
How about you? Maybe you've had similar questions. Have you thought about it lately? Do you believe it is possible to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? When you pray, do you ask the Holy Spirit to lead you, to guide you into all that is real and true about Jesus?
In her book, Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell recounts interviewing leaders in a parish of a large city in Canada at the Pastor's request. Described as a gifts interview, the goal of the conversation was to help leaders in the parish to recognize the gifts God has given them to help build the kingdom of God. During this process Weddell was interviewing a Catholic woman who also was president of the local Catholic women's group. Getting no where Weddell asked her, "Could you briefly describe to me your lived relationship with God at this point in your life?" She thought about it for a few moments and responded, "I don't have a relationship with God."
Well. Are you as speechless as I am? Just how does someone with the claim of Christ on them through baptism become president of the Catholic Women's group without a 'relationship with God?' More importantly, how is it that anyone could grow up in Church and never be assisted to hear God's voice in their soul and know him in their heart?
There is statistical evidence that suggests that this is a huge reality within the Church. In her book, Sherry Weddell explains that, "Less than half of Catholic adults are certain you can have a personal relationship with God. Thirty percent of Catholic adults don't believe in a personal God. Many Catholics do not believe in the God at the heart of the Catholic faith."
In the second reading Peter exclaims, "Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men, but in God's sight chosen and precious." Never would I have ever imagined that 30% of Catholic adults don't believe in a personal God. The New Evangelization surely must begin first within our parishes. Newness of faith must begin in conversions of those in our own pews. And the faith must be rekindled in those who believe. For when we speak of reaching the unchurched and the under-churched we cannot give what we do not have.
This is not just a Catholic problem. Emma Green in The Atlantic describes a nearly one million member decline in the Southern Baptist denomination over the past decade. Citing a decline in baptisms the task force for the denomination wrote, "we are not being effective in winning and discipling the next generation to follow Christ." Their report included the fact that in 2012, 60 percent of their churches reported that they didn't baptize anyone aged 12-17, and 80 percent reported that they had either zero or one baptism of someone aged 18-29. The task force of Southern Baptist ministers concluded, "We have a spiritual problem."
I remember the year I came into the Catholic Church. It was at the Easter Vigil, 2006. I recall the priest at that time lamenting that "This is the first year since I became a priest that I have not baptized someone."
We have a spiritual problem.
Do we all share the Father's joy about his Son, our Saviour, in whose sight Jesus is 'chosen and precious.' And in that joy we are brought together through baptism to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God our Father through Jesus Christ. We don't just go to Church; we are the Church. Being a Christian is above everything else about being a new creation in Christ Jesus. And when we come together it is to be more fully formed into the likeness of Christ by hearing the apostolic teaching, embracing each other in genuine Christian fellowship, and praying together and seeing Christ in the breaking of the bread.
My dear brothers and sisters, invite Jesus into your heart. Anyone can do that. Everyone should. Let us say to Him who is chosen and precious in the Father's eyes, "Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay!" That's not a Catholic prayer. It's not a Protestant prayer. It's a good prayer to pray anytime whether Catholic or Protestant; if necessary with every heart beat. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com