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Leap of Faith

There is incompleteness about us as human beings.St. Augustine captured that thought in his statement: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord.” We are driven toward faith by our awareness of the infinite to which we belong, but which we do not own like a possession. Ultimately, faith is God’s gift to us.

Our restlessness impacts us psychologically as human beings. We need a center to our life outside ourselves, around which our thoughts, feelings and desires can navigate. Faith as our total commitment to God, as our life vision, can act as our center. But it takes a leap of our total personhood to embrace this vision because we are embracing Mystery.

The word “faith” has many meanings─some helpful, some not so helpful. A misinterpretation of faith is to consider it an act of knowledge that has a low degree of evidence, or worse just an emotion. Nor is faith solely trust in a higher power. Unfortunately, faith is often thought of as the contents of faith, as in the Credo that we recite at Mass. A more  helpful definition sees faith as a power, as in the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Now let’s focus on theologian Paul Tillich’s rich definition of faith as the concern in life that claims ultimacy for our life. For it is when we leap from faith as the contents of faith to faith as ultimacy in our lives that we experience the depth of faith.

Ultimate Concern.  Whether we choose our nation, or our success, or our relationship to God as our ultimate concern, the chosen concern demands that we sacrifice all other concerns such as our time, money, recreation, family, maybe even our life. In Deut 6:5, we are given the commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” This commandment applies to whatever concern we make our ultimate concern, our god.

What is the difference between true and idolatrous faith? In true faith, our ultimate concern is about the truly ultimate. In idolatrous faith, we elevate finite realities to the rank of ultimacy, to the rank of the divine.

Ultimate concern is the issue that is addressed on Friday of our Cursillo Weekend. We are asked in the Ideal Talk: what is our god? Then we hear the Christian Vision, and we are challenged to worship the true God and commit to the Christian Vision. We are asked for outright conversion to the Christian Vision as our ultimate concern. The human heart seeks the ultimacy of the infinite because that is where our hearts will find rest.

Ultimate Benefits. Tillich describes an act of faith “as an act of a finite being who is grasped by and turned to the infinite.” Thus, faith is the state of being ultimately concerned. As such, faith subjects all our other concerns to itself, giving depth, direction and unity to all our other concerns and with them to our whole personality. Faith then is the integrating center of all the elements of our personhood. Faith unites our bodily, our unconscious, our conscious and our spiritual elements. Faith is the centered movement of the whole personality toward something of ultimate meaning and significance. As such faith is a passionate act because it is a matter of infinite passion.

The disrupting forces of our human condition represent great obstacles for our personal and spiritual life. If we lack a unifying center, we are subject to personal and spiritual disintegration. So we must strengthen our faith through constant conversion and spiritual experiences that awaken our consciousness of our ultimate concern.

Faith makes us lovers and doers. As finite beings, we are aware of our separateness from the infinite. Our separateness requires great courage to overcome our very natural doubt. However, faith presupposes our reunion with the infinite. It is love that drives us toward that reunion. And the immediate expression of love is action.

Practice Pentecost

It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Christ was raised up from the dead at his resurrection and brought back to life.  It was by the anointing of the Holy Spirit that Jesus received the power at the river Jordan to enter public life and work miracles, even casting out devils. Jesus promised his disciples that power from above would be sent down upon them in the form of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Spirit is our Higher Power. Practicing Pentecost is working at connecting with our Higher Power, who will point us not to himself but to the Jesus in the Jesus Process, the mirror and image of God.

Practice Risk-taking.  When the Spirit rouses our consciousness of social injustice, or calls us to reach out to others to change their life vision or when the Spirit prompts us to move to a different place in our pursuit of holiness, spiritual formation or evangelization, we are faced with the challenge of risk taking. Every move from the accepted, the established, the ingrained requires the practice of risk taking. But we are also faced with the opportunity to connect with our Higher Power. The natural human tendency is to pretend that the social injustice does not exist or that is the responsibility of others. Or we may want to avoid the imagined embarrassment if someone does not respond to our evangelization. Or we may simply not want to try something new. Practice risk-taking. Practice Pentecost.

Practice Awareness. We can’t connect with our Higher Power unless we are aware of the presence and operation of the Spirit in our lives.  We can practice Pentecost by being aware of the Divine Dialogue that God constantly conducts with us. God initiates dialogue with us through the situations and events of our individual and community life to let us know what he wants of us. God does not speak to us in words but in the deep, positive movements of our hearts. And it is the Spirit within us who judges our choices, letting us know whether we have correctly read God’s messages to us. Usually we receive some confirmation through an interior experience of peace and joy.

We can also initiate dialogue with the Spirit. In our Group Reunions we share where the Spirit is leading us in our pursuit of holiness, spiritual formation and evangelization. As a Pentecost practice, we could ask the Spirit these questions at the beginning of each day. This practice would enhance our awareness of the Spirit’s role in our lives and would focus our attention on our path of growth.

It is good practice to review at the end of the day on how we have responded to the Spirit’s prompts to love God and others more. The Jesuits call this practice the Awareness Examen, which is described in this program.  St. Ignatius of Loyola considered this practice as perhaps the most important spiritual exercise after the Eucharist. Practice awareness. Practice Pentecost.

Practice Prayer. Much of our lived experiences involve making decisions to get us through difficulties and to make the most of opportunities for growth. Decision time is Spirit time. It is at these times that we should make a practice of connecting with the power and presence of the Spirit and invoking his enlightenment. We need to pray for the Spirit’s help and then allow time to pass. Then return to prayer and earnestly entreat the Spirit to help us peacefully make our decision.

The Cursillo founders believed that the mystery of Christ could not be understood without the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are taught the Come Holy Spirit prayer on our Cursillo Weekend and this prayer should be on our lips daily for the rest of our lives. Practice prayer to the Spirit. Practice Pentecost.

Essential Intention

When a suitor meets his girl’s parents and they ask him: “What are your intentions?” he had better have the right answer. Intention is the all important force in our lives that leads us to right or wrong actions. Likewise, intention is vital for a deeper, more meaningful spiritual life.

Our intention thrusts us into a stimulating psychological zone, the zone of willful seeing, the zone of the “third eye” that empowers us to see more, to discover more. It opens our hearts to insight and fires up our energies. Of course, intention implies a life vision. Vision drives our attitudes, values and intentionality, all of which determine how we act.

We have many life visions for the many different aspects of our lives. Late in life I find my life visions converging into one simple vision. That the really important experiences in life are all about transformation.  I have concluded: my overriding life vision should have been one of transformation. For that is the essential vision that generates our essential intention of seeking enlightenment and growth.

Living with that essential intention would have driven me a lot sooner to encounter life, confront life with such questions as: how are my life events and experiences transforming me into a fuller human being, into a deeper spiritual life?

Take the Good News of Jesus. It is all about transformation. His message: life is not about amassing prestige, power, possessions. It is about transforming our life vision into his life vision. How could I have missed that message? Lack of the essential intention for transformation!

Most of my life I have struggled with the ritual of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Jesus’ Love Meal has been so well hidden in the Liturgy of the Mass that it has taken me a lifetime to discover it. And Jesus’ Love Meal is all about transformation of us into the Beloved Community. How could I have missed that vision? Lack of the essential intention for transformation!

My wife and I will celebrate 55 years of marriage in September 2012. Only recently have I realized that marriage is all about transformation. 2,000 years ago in his Dialogues of Love, the pagan Roman historian Plutarch described the transformation process that takes place in committed married lives. How could I have missed that vision? Lack of the essential intention for transformation!

The famous Jesuit writer, Fr. Bernard Lonergan wrote: “…conversion {or transformation} is the experience by which one becomes an authentic human being.” If I were to choose one word to describe the essence of the spiritual life, I would select: “Transformation!”

Today, that is my core understanding of Cursillo. Cursillo is a short course in transformation—transformation of self and society. That was the vision of the Cursillo founders. How could I have missed that vision? Lack of the essential intention for transformation!

An Indian guru once said: “Transform yourself and you will transform the world.” Fr. Richard Rohr in his book, The Naked Now, writes: “Remember, it is only transformed people who have the power to transform others.” The Cursillo founders understood that principle. It is strongly implied in what they have given us: the Weekend talks, the Cursillo tripod, and Cursillo’s community support programs—all tools for transformation.

First, take the talks. Every talk on the Weekend is intended to transform the candidates’ life vision. Let us focus on the goals of just the Friday talks. Change candidates’ attitude:

  • from an unexamined life to searching for the ideal life vision.
  • from an abstract notion of God to a vital, loving relationship with God.
  • from a notional attitude toward Jesus to a real devotion to Jesus.
  • from believing that the impossible dream of the Christian Vision is the possible dream.
  • from a negative attitude toward holiness to commitment to holiness as their enabling force to live a fully human life, a fully Christian life.

How could we have missed those visionary messages? Lack of the essential intention for transformation!

Second, the Cursillo founders gave us the tripod of holiness or piety, formation or study, and evangelization or action intended to transform Cursillistas’ lives. It is a dynamic process with three elements—with the fire of holiness driving the process. Our growth in holiness fires up our desire to search for ways to deepen our holiness. Together holiness and formation drive us to spread the Good News to others. And our evangelization of others transforms us into contemplatives in action.

This dynamic process is all about transformation. The essential intention for transformation will help Cursillistas discover that the Cursillo Tripod is not a static, mechanical device. Not a spiritual shopping list. Not a report card. They will discover that the Spirit operates through the tripod. They will discover the tripod is a dynamic process of transformation.

Third, the Cursillo founders gave us Cursillo’s community support programs of Ultreya and Group Reunion. They are intended to help Cursillistas in the process of transformation. Can you imagine what the dynamics of these communal experiences would be like, if we all envisioned them as invitations to transformation? Why haven’t we realized this sooner? Lack of the essential intention for transformation!

In brief, Cursillo is a short course in transformation—transformation of self and society! But we need the essential vision and intention of transformation to make it happen. This essential vision and intention will re-create and re-vitalize our lives and Cursillo and the world around us!

 

Jesus-Serene One

Among our fond memories of the Cursillo Weekend is the recollection of utter serenity that filled the environment from Thursday night to Sunday night. We might have thought to ourselves that if the spiritual life is the experience of such tranquility, surely it is worth living.

Likewise, Jesus demonstrated serenity in His life. Recall the scene of Jesus asleep in the boat in the middle of the storm. Or the scene of Jesus facing thousands of hungry people needing a meal; such a guest list would have thrown Martha into a tizzy. Or when the disciples might have expected a scolding for busying themselves with fishing rather than Jesus’ work, but He was all serene. When they brought their catch in, they saw that Jesus had a fire going and was frying fish for them. (Jn  21 1-13) We need Jesus as a model of serenity, because the human tendency is to take this good quality and push it to an extreme, causing us to become ineffective evangelizers.

Human Way.  We can get so caught up in the serenity of the spiritual life that we might become lazy about our mission to take the Good News to our environments. While some isolation from others is required to live the spiritual life, it can become a too satisfying habit. Erroneously we might take that spiritual directive of “let go and let God” to mean that God will do everything while we simply wait for His Spirit to bring about the Kingdom. We can allow our patience for results to limit our actions. We can forget that the goal of our work at growing in holiness and spiritual formation is to build resources within us to become evangelizers for Jesus. We can ignore Jesus’ promise that His Spirit will empower us to complete His mission.

Jesus’ Way. Jesus did not allow His personal serenity to interfere with His mission. He had to put up with the slow learning of His disciples, but He kept on trying with parable after parable, answer after answer. Just before His Ascension, Jesus had to exercise great patience when His disciples asked Him: “Lord, are You going to free Israel (from Rome) now and restore us as an independent nation?” Acts 1:6ff. While Jesus might have wanted more immediate results from His efforts, He was calm about the prospects, telling His disciples that the Kingdom was like a seed that takes root slowly; only after a time does it produce a harvest. At the heart of Jesus’ serenity was His great faith that God would ultimately accomplish His mission; He would succeed..

Remedies. If we find ourselves excessively drawn by a desire for serenity in our spiritual life, let us remember that Jesus promised His followers that God would empower them through the Spirit dwelling within them. In other words, the same gift that empowered Jesus in all His activity is our gift. God has entrusted each of us with unique gifts which the Spirit will guide and develop for our unique mission in life. So, we are gifted and we are powerful.

Second, God loves us as only God can love us—unconditionally. In the same way that Jesus is loved, we are loved Jn 17:26.Knowing God’s personal love, we experience deep inner peace. It frees us to be self-giving to others, for we have entered deeply into the gift-dimension of life. In our gratefulness for God’s love, we will want to help others discover that they are loved. However, others can only come to this truth if we love them with the radical love of Jesus. For we are the only Jesus they will ever meet.

Third, if our desire for serenity isolates us from others, let us remember that Jesus promises a special presence of Himself when in His name we gather together in mutual love. Through Christian community we get in touch with the energy of Jesus’ Spirit. The energy to grow in faith, in hope and in love.

Jesus-Bold Leader

On our Weekend, we were called to show bold leadership to evangelize and transform the environments within the institutions we operate in—ultimately to Christianize society. Whether we were natural leaders or not, we were challenged to take responsibility to accomplish Jesus’ mission. We were asked to demonstrate a spirit of initiative in reaching out boldly to others to bring them to Jesus.

Likewise, Jesus was a bold leader. He had the audacity to ask men to leave their businesses for an unknown future. Jesus called Peter and Andrew to leave their fishing nets behind and they left their nets at once and went with Him. Mt 5:19ff. Nor did Jesus mince words with the Scribes and Pharisees, calling them “white-washed sepulchers”, “blind guides” and a “brood of vipers”. He confronted their injustice of pretending to be for God when they were only for themselves and their position. We need Jesus as a model of a bold leader, because the human tendency is to take this good quality and push it to an extreme, causing us to turn people away from Jesus rather than to Him.

Human Way. We take our efforts to be bold leaders for Christ to an extreme when we go around looking for a fight or when we tend to step on people’s toes. Or when we assert ourselves at the expense of others. Or when we hold up ourselves as though the whole world is supposed to focus on us. Yes, we can respond with a strong sense of justice when that is required, but we cannot allow ourselves to be cantankerous. The real pitfall occurs when we like to be not only against others but also over others. In that mindset we are using authoritarianism to gain control over others. Not a way to live a life of radical love for others or manifest the Christ within us to evangelize others.

Jesus Way. Jesus’ bold leadership struck a balance. On the one hand, He had a strong sense of justice and was ready to confront the powers that be. Jesus could see through those who used violence to exert their influence or defend their position, and He had the courage to bring their evil to light. On the other hand, Jesus saw real strength in non-violence, for the Spirit works through our gentleness in the face of oppression by others. This is especially evident when He allowed Himself to be vulnerable in His passion and death. As Jesus told Peter, “all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Mt 26:52.He cautioned His followers: “Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot destroy the soul”. Mt 10:28.

Remedies. We take the virtue of bold leadership to an extreme when we exercise our compulsion to be judge over others and are super-confident in our knowledge of what is just. It is at these times that we must draw on our virtue of compassion, being fully present in a caring, attentive way to the other so as to receive the presence and giftedness of the other. We need to offer ourselves totally as self-gift with the expectancy that we will discover the giftedness of the other. Since we are totally committed to the other, we suspend judgment of the other and see the other in an entirely different light. Our compassion will eliminate the excessive aggressiveness in our efforts to be bold leaders.

A good question for us as bold leaders to ask ourselves when we confront injustice or immorality in others is: “Am I confronting the others in ways that will lead them to repent, or am I simply seeking to prevail over those who are doing wrong?” This question presupposes that we have taken the time to learn what kind of a person we are confronting and what makes him or her tick.

Prayer should play an important role in our efforts to bring another to repentance. First, prayer for ourselves that the Spirit might enlighten and guide us that we have a correct sense of the situation, and prayer for the other that the Spirit might grant His light.

Jesus-Optimist

When we reflect on our Weekend experience, we fondly recall the moments of joy and fun amid the discovery and realization of the Christian Vision. Deep interior experiences are like that: they open us up to joy and joy transforms us at least temporarily—long enough to make us feel optimistic about living the Christian life and sharing it with others.

Likewise, Jesus was an optimist who liked moments of joy. By comparison with John the Baptist who did not drink wine and often went without food, Jesus was seen by His adversaries as a man who feasted and drank. Mt 11: 18,19. When a disciple of John the Baptist asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples fast as we do and as the Pharisees do,” Jesus answered: “Should the bridegroom’s friends mourn and go without food while He is with them.” Mt 9:14,15. Evidently being with Jesus was like being guests at a wedding party. We need Jesus as our model of an optimist, because the human tendency is to take our optimism and push it to an extreme, causing it to be an obstacle to spiritual progress.

Human Way. We can take the joy of our spiritual experiences as being the norm for the spiritual life. We may look upon pain as a great spiritual evil to be avoided. To have nothing interfere with our joy, we may try to avoid all conflict, even sweeping the dirt under the rug. We may become procrastinators, putting off what is unpleasant. Instead of completing what we have already planned, we may go off making more plans. Of course, when things don’t work out, we may become tense and irritable. Or we may engage in some form of escapism.

Jesus’ Way. The basis for Jesus’ optimism was His deep faith that “the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” Mt 4:17. He had the vision to see that although the Kingdom was the promise of joy in the future, the only way that the future joy would come about was to accept the problems and pains of the present. The troubles of the present moment are the signs and preparation for the joyful future planned by God. That is realistic optimism and Jesus expressed it with various illustrations. “I must fall and die like a kernel of wheat that falls into the furrows of the earth. Unless I die I will be alone—a single seed. But my death will produce…a plentiful harvest of new lives.” Jn 12:24. A mother endures great labor pains before she has the joy of bringing new life into the world. Jn 16:21.Jesus was a realistic optimist!

Remedies. First, if we find ourselves compulsively seeking joy in our spiritual life, we must face the reality that the Paschal mystery of Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection and gifting us with His Spirit is at the heart of our faith, and therefore must be at the center of our spirituality. His life mirrors our life. That’s reality. We cannot enter deeply into Jesus’ life or even our own life unless we understand and fully embrace the Paschal mystery in Jesus’ life and how that mystery works in our life to heal our woundedness.

Second, we must realize that the spiritual life is not a superficial way of life. In our exuberance we may think that we are experiencing spiritual joys in scripture reading, good liturgy or the camaraderie of Christian community. The reality is that spiritual joys to be the work of the Holy Spirit must be integral parts of a faith experience. We have to recognize and work on the Spirit’s invitations to greater faith, hope and charity.

Third, we must act against the grain. We must grow in a disciplined life. The discipline of giving the spiritual life top priority. The discipline of loving God and others even when we are not in the mood. The discipline of staying focused. The discipline of always being open to explore new understandings of God, Jesus, the Risen Christ, and Spirit as well as new insights into our own compulsions and weaknesses.

Jesus-Loyal Person

If we did not feel indebted to the Church for our faith before our Cursillo Weekend, we certainly experienced a strong sense of loyalty by the end. Further, as Cursillo was the medium of our deeper relationship with Christ and our new appreciation for the Church, we extended our loyalty to Cursillo.

Likewise, Jesus was a very loyal person. Loyal to God, to the Jewish people, to Jewish law and scriptures. Jesus discerned God’s plan for Him through the study of the scriptures and he accepted all the demands made on Him. Mk 10:45.  Although the           Jewish leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah, He remained faithful to being God’s gift toIsraeland loyal to Jewish law. Jesus asked His accusers: “Which of you can truthfully accuse me of one single sin?” Jn:8:46. We need Jesus as our model of a person who is loyal to institutions, because the human tendency is to take such a virtue and push it to an extreme, preventing our growth as persons and in the spiritual life.

Human Way. In our great loyalty to the Church, Cursillo and other institutions, we may make observance of their laws and regulations an end in itself rather than a means to an end. We may even judge our relationship with God based on our outward observance of their laws and regulations. This is the trap of legalism. We may not be aware of it but what we are seeking is the security that outward observance of laws and rules give us Should it be difficult in a given instance to decide what to do, we may even prefer to get our answer from some authority figure. Again, looking for security. Unfortunately, legalism leads to the self-righteousness of the Pharisees.

Jesus’ Way. Jesus avoided the trap of seeking security from external observance of law, as we see demonstrated countless times in the Gospels. It was the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law that mattered to Jesus.St. Paul makes this distinction eminently clear: “Christ has made us free and don’t get all tied up again in the chains of slavery to Jewish laws and ceremonies.” Gal. 5:1ff. Jesus’ loyalty to the Jewish people and to Jewish law was always governed by His loyalty to God. Jesus came to reveal that God was not a lawgiver, but truly a loving parent.

Remedies. First, we must realize that if we take our loyalty to institutions to an extreme, we are creating a monumental barrier between Jesus’ Spirit and ourselves in our spiritual life. The Spirit of God dwells within us, reveals us to ourselves, calls us to growth and gives of Himself in relationship. The Spirit operates within each situation and experience of our daily life. We must believe that we are in the process of becoming, and we must be open to this interior process of discerning where the Spirit is leading us. It is the Spirit who will guide us in living the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law.

There is no greater security available to us than to have the Spirit as our inner guide and mentor. But it takes dependency on the Spirit and deep personal courage and faith to live according to the Spirit.

Second, we readily admit that every individual is driven by pathologies and compulsions. But are we aware that every institution, the best of them, is affected by pathological trends? Writes theologian Gregory Baum in Man Becoming: “The presence of the demonic in institutional life casts a shadow of injustice on all human activities, even the best….The Christian is summoned to remain critical in regard to institutions, to wrestle with the powers of darkness present in them, and to involve him- or her self politically in the various societies to which he or she belongs.” Loyalty is not blind. We demonstrate true loyalty to the Church or Cursillo or other institutions when we act like Jesus: Jesus loved the institutions of His day but he challenged them.

Jesus-Wisdom Person

Our Weekend introduced us to a life of searching for wisdom. Friday, we searched for the wisdom of a life vision. Saturday, we searched for the wisdom of spiritual formation to live the Christian Vision. Sunday, we searched for the wisdom to apply our new life vision to our environments. No matter where we were on our spiritual journey before our Weekend, we left with the realization that we were faced with searching for the wisdom of on-going conversion and spiritual formation.

Likewise, Jesus was a searcher for wisdom. He valued time for prayer to think things out with the light that God put into His heart. Jesus saw through the pretense of the religious leaders, and offered His followers a new way to live—the beatitudes. An independent thinker, Jesus spoke with authority, not like the other religious teachers who always cited various opinions. Mt 7:29. We need Jesus as our model of a person in search for wisdom, because the human tendency is to take this good quality and push it to an extreme, causing us to be ineffective evangelizers.

Human Way. Committed to a life of searching for spiritual wisdom through private study and reflection, we may fall into the trap of aloofness. Seeking wisdom requires much time spent on our study projects which may cause us to begrudge our time with others. We may not really enjoy social events, and when we are in social gatherings, we may be preoccupied with our own thoughts, presenting a cold exterior. We may even be tempted to be cynical about people whom we may see as speaking in platitudes and not engaging in hard logic. When we share our deep thoughts with others, we tend not to be conscious of our audience’s receptivity. We may even feel that we are not appreciated for what we have to say and retreat all the more into our heads where we are comfortable.

Jesus’ Way. Jesus was a thinker who cared. As He grew in wisdom, He realized that any new understanding was the gift of the Holy Spirit and that this gift was meant to be given away in His mission to help others. Jesus acted as a spiritual guide to his disciples, sharing what He had learned from His Father. Jn 15:15. Nor did Jesus begrudge His time for others. ”What pity He felt for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn’t know what to do or where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd.” Mt 10:16. Because Jesus was sensitive to people, He knew at what level to pitch His messages and what communications techniques to use. He unfolds gradually his explanation of the commandment to love others, using the parable of the Good Samaritan to expand our concept of our neighbors to anyone who is in need.

Remedies.  First, awareness of being compulsive about our search for spiritual wisdom is important. Look for the sure signs of aloofness from others or begrudging time for others. Not Christlike qualities and destructive of our evangelizing efforts.

Second, we must realize this psychological truth. It is through action, which includes willing, choosing and doing, and interaction with others, that we become ourselves. That is the way we reinforce our life vision and values. We can even be formed through our actions by acting as if we are already the person we want to become; our actions actualize our vision. And it is only through stepping out of our comfort zone and stretching ourselves to do what does not come naturally that we grow.

Third, we must view evangelization as spiritual formation through action. When we evangelize others, we evangelize ourselves most of all. We find more courage to act and to lead. We commit ourselves more deeply to Jesus’ mission. We become more aware of the Spirit’s presence, empowerment and enlightenment. What is abstract becomes alive; what is notional becomes real; and doubt becomes belief. That’s spiritual formation!

Jesus-Feeling Person

Perhaps on our Weekend we got in touch for the first time with the depths of our own feelings and experienced a new level of relationship to others. We discovered God’s radical love for us and that discovery freed our minds and hearts to fathom the depths of our own emotional life and to receive others as our brothers and sisters. The results? A richer emotional life and radical love for others as our new Vision!

Likewise, Jesus was a very feeling person. Often He felt disappointment deep within Himself when He was so misunderstood by those closest to Him. Also, Jesus was sensitive to the vibrations of others’ emotions, and especially their sorrows. He grieved at seeing the widow of Naim burying her only son. Lk 7:11. Tears came to Jesus’ eyes when He learned of Lazarus’ death. “They were close friends,” the Jewish leaders said. “See how much He loved him.” Jn 11:35. We need Jesus as our model of a feeling person, because the human tendency is to take a good quality like being a sensitive, feeling person and push it to an extreme, causing us to be ineffective evangelizers.

Human Way. Once we are opened up to our feelings, we may become oversensitive to any hurts or misfortunes, which we may keep recalling in memory again and again. We may view the sad parts of our lives, such as being misunderstood or simply not appreciated, as very significant moments; they may even make us feel special. We may take pride in the way we understand joys and sorrows. We may even create a style for ourselves which we think others lack. The result is that we may create an image of ourselves as being self-centered and focusing on ourselves. Not a way to live a life of radical love for others or manifest the Christ within us to evangelize others.

Jesus’ Way. While Jesus was called to be a “man of sorrows”, we do not see Him acting out a tragic figure full of melancholy or self-pity. In the same breath that Jesus told His disciples of His coming passion and death, He spoke of His resurrection from the dead. Mk 8:31. He did not hide from His enemies, but courageously encountered them. Jesus did not cling desperately to His disciples for understanding and protection. Rather He tried to support them and prepare them for His coming death. He encouraged them to strengthen one another by loving one another, as He had loved them. Jn 13:33-35 Jesus’ feelings for others were not surface feelings. His deep sensitivity to people enabled Him to read their hearts. So Jesus was sensitive to sensitive people (Lk 7:36ff), but He did not have unrealistic expectations of weak or wounded people. Jn 13:18, 27.

Remedies. First, if we find ourselves consumed by our feelings and as a consequence withdrawing from others, we must go against our feelings and be assertive and focus on action. In fact, we must redouble our efforts and work hard to evangelize our environ-ments. For the sake of our own psychological health and for Jesus Who is counting on us!

Second, let our newly found awareness of our own feelings and our sensitivity to others be our teacher. We must recognize that the Spirit guides us through our deepest, positive feelings; we must learn to discern His prompts or the “enemy” in them. Also, let it create an understanding in us of both the diversity of personality types and their special compulsions and weaknesses, including our own. Such understanding will help us in our work of evangelizing real people with real flaws.

Third, radical love is not blind. We cannot live in denial of reality: Not everyone is lovable. We must take such difficult people to our inner center and pray for divine help to meet the challenge of accepting patiently their weaknesses and character flaws, and to love them anyway—despite our feelings. We cannot allow peoples’ arrogance or self-centeredness to diminish our capacity to love them. That’s radical love!

Jesus-Achiever

Perhaps our Weekend was the first time we understood the meaning and significance of the Christian Vision. This Vision changed all our attitudes—toward God, self, others and life. We had gained a new life vision that generated much energy, so necessary for the accomplishment of a mission. Then we were commissioned to work for the success of Christ’s mission to bring the Good News to others. Christ’s mission became our mission. We want to be achievers for Christ.

Likewise, Jesus lived for the success of His work. He laid out a careful strategy for success. He chose persons for special roles in His organization, and shared with them His authority and powers. He sent His disciples out two by two into the towns which He was planning to enter—today’s advance men—to prepare the crowds. Jesus was a super salesman: women provided for the whole group “out of their own resources”. Lk 8:3.Jesus wanted to be an achiever. We need Jesus as our model of an achiever, because the human tendency is to take a good quality like desire for success and push it to an extreme, alienating others rather than drawing them to Jesus.

Human Way. Committed to Jesus’ mission, we may put our goals before people. Should a conversation or meeting not seem helpful for what we want to accomplish, we may become very bored and fail to appreciate the value of simply socializing with people and sharing their interests and experiences. Unconsciously, we may repress our feelings to present ourselves as full of enthusiasm for the business at hand, sending out false vibrations to others and thus hurting relationships. We may become intolerant of our associates who seem to waste time talking or otherwise fail to give their whole souls to our goals. Because our attention is forever on our goals, we may not realize the suffering around us.  Consequently, we may induce others to relate to us in terms of our role as evangelizers, rather than simply to us as unique persons. A barrier to evangelization.

Jesus Way. Jesus had but one goal in life, building God’s Kingdom, but He always put people first. The Pharisees too had a set of laws for building God’s Kingdom, such as   observing the Sabbath, but Jesus looked first to peoples’ needs for healing. Further, when Jesus sought to work a miracle, He prayed to the Father, teaching us that we cannot expect to achieve success as evangelizers by depending on our own resources. And when Jesus received power, He thanked the source of that power. A reminder to us to give thanks for any of our successes. Lastly, while Jesus was a highly motivated person bent on success, God called Him to suffer a great failure. His last words were: “It is accomplished.” Jesus’ success was in His failure that burst forth into His resurrection.

Remedies. As people seeking to succeed in accomplishing Jesus’ mission, we must always remember that compassion for others, not our goal of evangelization, should be the starting point in our relationships to others. It is only when people first accept us as persons that they will be open to our messages. That is the wisdom behind the Cursillo    slogan, “Make a friend. Be a friend. Bring a friend to Christ”. Evangelization is a process, and if we want to be successful at it, we must be aware of that process.

In our efforts to give people the Christian vision of life, we are bound to fail frequently. First of all, it is not our gift to give; it is the gift of the Spirit. We are only the instruments. Second, if we respond too sharply to failure, we must ask ourselves: “Whom am I serving, Jesus or myself?” Self-centeredness has a tendency to creep into both our successes and our failures. Lastly, it has been said that we are not asked to succeed, we are only asked to be faithful. Full of faith in the Christian Vision and fully devoted to the spread of the Christian Vision!