In a few weeks we will be gathering at St. Paul’s for the diocesan, Living and Sharing the Joy of the Gospel conference. If you are not already planning on attending, I hope you will prayerfully consider this wonderful opportunity to continue to grow in faith, joy and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis begins his book, Joy of the Gospel, by encouraging all Christians to embrace a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.” Our personal relationship with Jesus is foundational for our Christian pilgrimage on earth. It is in, with, from and through this relationship that we become “Missionary Disciples.”
Our personal connection to Jesus is meant to deepen our understanding of God’s mercy and love and drive our willingness and desire to cooperate with God’s will and work in the world helping others to know the love of God in Christ Jesus. We are called to cultivate and deepen our love for Jesus in order that we might be more and more the people God has created us to be, joy and light for the world.
Growing in love with Jesus and in our understanding that the Gospel responds to our greatest needs is an ongoing task of the missionary disciple. Pope Francis maintains that “we were created for what the Gospel has to offer us; friendship with God and love of our brothers and sisters. If we succeed in expressing adequately and with beauty the essential content of the Gospel, surely this message will speak to the deepest yearnings of people’s hearts.”
How can we “express adequately and with beauty the essential content of the Gospel in order to truly help others come to know God’s love?” This is a million-dollar question and one which we must continually explore and take personally.
Near the end of his book, Pope Francis gives us an insight into how we can answer this question. He writes, “A person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love will convince nobody.” These words leave a blue print for helping us express the truth, beauty, and wonder of the Gospel.
The Pope’s statement invites us to ask ourselves some serious questions. Are we convinced in the truth and Good News of Jesus? Are we enthusiastic about our faith and relationship with Jesus? Are we certain God loves us and that “with Jesus life becomes richer and that with him it is easier to find meaning in everything?” Are we in love with Jesus?
In your pilgrim journey of faith, I encourage you to dive deep into each one of these affirmations: Convinced, Enthusiastic, Certain and In Love. If you are not convinced, keep exploring with prayer and study the faith and teachings of the Church. If you are not convinced, keep wrestling with God. If you are not enthusiastic, meet with people who are. Do not give in to a lukewarm faith. Instead, seek to develop an enthusiasm that cannot help but be contagious. If you are not certain God loves you, spend time before the crucifix and sit with Jesus in the tabernacle. If you are not certain of the Good News of Jesus, keep praying, “Lord, I believe – help my unbelief.” God understands our struggles and uncertainties. There are many things in life I struggle with and am not certain about. The recent clergy and Church hierarchy abuse scandals are high on the list of my struggles, anger and frustrations. Nevertheless, the Gospel is ultimately about Jesus and people need to know Jesus loves them. We all need to know deep within us that God’s love is CERTAIN! If you are not in love with Jesus, ask God to open your eyes and heart to His love. If you are not in love, keep growing in your knowledge and understanding of God’s love for you. “We love because God first loved us.”
While there are no 5 easy steps to becoming convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love, I hope you will take to heart the questions above and never stop growing.
At this critical time in the life of the Church, we need credible witnesses who are convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love! I will pray for you and ask that you pray for me.
Hope to see you at the conference.
Deacon Steve Olmstead
The 2018 Southeast Alaska Catholic Conference is September 28-30 at St. Paul’s in Juneau. This year’s theme is Living and Sharing the Joy of the Gospel. You can find more information on this year’s speakers on page 16. or visit DioceseofJuneau.org.