Friday, 1 November 2013

84: "our actions", growing in love & witnessing Jesus

Question: While working on my plan for a pilot project here in C. for Forming Intentional Disciples last night, I came to a question that made me ponder. Reading Sherry Weddell's book, "Forming Intentional Disciples", she points to some fundamental principles, including a need for a personal relationship with God and the need for us to witness to others. My question is: Is it our witnessing that is changing others... or is the fact they see genuine love and Jesus in our actions?

My conclusion is the latter. Consequently, it will take 2-5 years (as Sherry says in FID) for the parish to see the fruits of our efforts… because it will take that long to move from the initial ID's stage to truly living the way God wants us to. In a recent talk, Deacon P. calls it "Experiential knowledge vs Cognitive knowledge". When only 60% of Catholics believe in a personal God... what will it take to get the "Experiential knowledge" with God. We should spend some time talking about how to witness when you don't have the experience.

Answer: I would like to clarify the meaning of: "our actions".
First, it is very important when we deal with Jesus' things to do it with humility, understanding that God is the one who calls us, not us who call Him and that God is the one who guides us in everything (if we allow Him to do so). We are NOT in charge of anything, or going on a mission. We humbly try to reply, daily, to His Call. The Grace of God comes before anything else. It is not by "doing" that we will change the world but by "following the Grace of God".
The "go get" mentality, or the "dower" allegedly "practical" mentality can play very nasty tricks to the person who becomes Christian (you call it "Intentional Disciple", I call it: "becoming more Christian"). So we need to be very careful not to play the gods here. This could be an the modern world mentality and tendency. But the norm remains the Gospel, not our mentalities/tendencies.
Therefore the tendency will be to consider "that book", or "that formula", or "that experience" and so forth as a "winning formula" and forget the Grace of God. We do not control God. We are free to love Him, to reply to His love and He is free to love us (first). He loves us… indeed, He never ceases. This is why, by receiving humbly his Love, we try to let it flow to the outside world.

The specific answer to your question is: neither nor. What we need to do is to listen every day and every second, in our heart, to Jesus who calls us and do His will. In the Gospel, we see that sometimes Jesus asked people, healed by Him (who therefore became his disciples), to remain silent and not to say anything; other times He asked them to witness to Him; other times He sent them back to their daily life. Each person is different, each need is different, each time in the Journey with Jesus is different, each mission is different. This is what matters. The general rule is the need for all for growth, but it doesn't happen the same for everybody. The general rule is as well the need to witness to Him, and spread the Gospel. But when and how, we need to see with the Holy Spirit that works in the Church and through the Church.

If He asks me to witness, I have to do it. At any time! Immediately after meeting Him, or years after that. As many times as He asks! If He doesn't, then I need to the other things He asks me to do (according to my state: married, work, family,.. this as well is a mission and a witness to Him.). There are different trees, different type of heights, depths (roots) for these trees.
Now, after that, if He asks me to witness and I do so, will this bear fruits? Not always. St Paul in the big city of Athens had to speak. Did it work? Well it was a big fiasco. Only 2 or 3 persons followed him. Had St Paul known that he wouldn't have fruits, would he have had to consider that it was better not to bear witness to Jesus? Of course not! He had to. When Jesus asks us to do something He doesn't guaranty the success. Obedience remains the highest virtue of the Apostle.
Some soils are good, some others are hard. Some soils allow us to see the fruits of our labour, others need years and others will see the fruits. What a sower has to do, with a detached heart, is: to sow, with a detached heart, obeying to His Master and trusting in Him, and Him only.
On the other hand, the more a person matures in Christ, the more the old man's influence on him/her diminishes, and the more the Grace of God works and make the new man grow in him/her. We are like pregnant women with twins, the old man and the new man, and the food we give (by our acts) either feeds one or the other.
So the more we are purified, the more we are transformed in Jesus, the more the Holy Spirit moves us with greater ease, the more our acts gain in efficiency (they bring more and better results). No doubt at all about that. One act made by a purified person bears infinitely much more fruits for the Church than thousands of acts made by a whole crowd. A saint asked Jesus how many souls He would give her (He would save because of her act) for something she did for Him. She said: 10? He replied: 10.000.

But still, you have saints who preached in places, and never got any result: starting by the Lord Himself in Jerusalem. That was tough. But still, God recompenses them anyway. And they have to do it anyway, so people can't say: we never heard of that, so God's justice is preserved. And you have "devils", who work a lot for the Gospel, preach, make miracles, and still hear Jesus in the end say to them: "go away, evil doers, I don't know you". Why? They were doing their own will, not Jesus' will (Doing a "good thing" is not enough for the apostle; one has to do God's will. This is why Obedience comes first.). If He sends me, then I have to go. If He doesn't send me, then better for me to shut up and stay still, and work on bettering myself (we have to do it anyway), by the Grace of God. This is why Jesus says: spend time removing the big log that pierces your eyes, and then, purified, you'll be able with the Love of God, to remove the straw in the eyes of your brother.

I am not sure I got your question, but this is what comes to mind.
The experience of Jesus, the personal relationship with Him, is a long journey anyway. It usually takes years of growth until one reaches the Union with Jesus, or at least the Spiritual Betrothal. Therefore it is important in each step to discern His will and do it, with the help of His Grace.

Father Marie Eugene, in the end of his book "I want to see God" (the second volume) wrote a small treatise on the relationship - in us - between the Growth of Love and Apostolate/Ministry. Remember, his book is a master piece commentary of the book of St Theresa of Avila: "The Interior Castle". This little study he makes is moved by a genius intuition, which is the need to understand the relationship between the fruitfulness of our actions and our spiritual growth.
He goes through all the stages of growth and explains the risks, the fruits, what we should focus on.
Fr Fran├žois Regis Wilhelem did pick up this intuition and deepened it in a book (only in French, Italian or Spanish). Excellent work, that should transform our understanding of ministry in the Church.


I hope that helped.

Please pray for me


Jean

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