Thursday, January 5 is the day Pope Emeritus Benedict the XVI 's funeral was celebrated in Rome. All around the world, parishes and Dioceses, individuals and groups, joined in the mourning. Our Day 4 began with a rosary for the repose of the soul of Pope Emeritus Benedict the XVI's.
Dr. Ted Sri was the first speaker of the evening. His energy on stage is absolutely contagious. He is all over the stage, his voice raising and lowering in the passion he has for bringing others to Christ. His initial question to the audience was "Do you ever feel intimidated by the saints?" He went on to talk about some of the behaviors and habits they seem so unattainable: ones who didn't need much sleep and prayed all night, others who were able to fast for a week at a time, those levitate and those who could bilocate. But, the reality is, they were men and women, just like us. They struggled in prayer and didn't always get it right. What they did, though, was every time they fell, they got back up and relied on God's grace. What God did in those saints, He wants to do in each and every one of us.
Jesus doesn't want to pardon us like a judge. He wants to heal us like a physician, and He does that through the Church. As the Holy Spirit is in us, we become like the iron rod in the fire. We take on the properties of the Holy Spirit. We can forgive like Him, love like Him, give like Him. The Church is not a way of life, it is life. It is the life of Christ in us, changing us to become more like Him.
We need the Church, we can't just be spiritual entities. We need to have the structure of the Sacraments of the Church to affect true healing. As St. Augustine said, it wasn't that he didn't still suffer wounds after his conversion, but the Lord was able to keep healing them once he had converted.
Why would we want to give ourselves to a church that was not perfect? Throughout salvation history, imperfect human instruments were always used in the Lord's work. Moses led the Israelites from Egypt. Peter was the rock on which the Church was built. Imperfect people can be perfect for the task at hand when they are executing the Lord's will. This shows God's majesty all the more by being able to work through our imperfections.
We have to be careful of choosing the spiritual, but not religious, life. In general, our spiritual nature would be very comfortable for us. Essentially, when we choose spirituality instead of the Church, we become a "Church of me". However, we should all know ourselves well enough to understand that we need to be called out of ourselves or we will not truly be able to love like Jesus did and does.
The saints are our brothers and sisters who went before us. They are praying for us and encouraging us. This is how we are changed. Jesus does not want to pardon you like a judge. He wants to heal us like a physician and does that through the Church and Her Sacraments.
Hilary Draftz was the final speaker of the evening. Her focus was on Acts 2:42. "They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/acts/2) First, she wanted to make sure we understood the title of that book in Bible was "Acts" and not "Intentions." The Apostles specifically had actions they need to take as they made the transition to communal living after the Lord's resurrection and Acts 2:42 was the blueprint to execute the plan. She broke this done by the four areas covered in this scripture.
The Disciples had the Gospel to share with the apostles, and the other truths that flowed from the trust of the Gospel. Many of those topics are unpopular today. They were not popular in the early Church either.
Friendship with other believers is important. Technology has become a superficial substitute. What we need are authentic friendships, filled with good meals, long laughter and true sharing. The timelessness of authentic sharing allows us to gift our real selves and to receive that gift from others. Those great friendships are the foretaste of what heaven will be like.
Breaking of the Bread:
Early Christians practiced the breaking of the bread as the Eucharist. That is when Christ is revealed, like he was to Cleopas and the other on the road to Emmaus. We don't just believe Christ humbled himself to be born as an infant or to die on a Cross. We believe He continues to humble Himself each time he comes to us as bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ. The breaking of the bread also refers to the entire sacramental life of the Church including Reconciliation.
Prayer needs to be a regular part of our lives, not just when we are on a retreat high. If we coast from one retreat experience to the next, and we expect the retreat to take care of the work, we will never grow in faith. We need to commit to praying, even if just a little each day. The most important part is that we are doing it.
Every day is a new opportunity to encounter Christ. Jesus wants you to radiate with His glory. He is making us into the saints He has called us to be. We need to continue to act as apostles, not just have good intentions.
At the end of the evening, the location for SEEK24 was announced...returning to St. Louis! The first 500 people to sign up will receive some special swag items, and everyone in our group is anxiously waiting to hear if we won since everyone was registered to attend next year before we even left the arena. Please pray for us as we move forward in faith to live out the Gospel message, we heard in a new way this week.