Message from Our February 15, 2014 Outreach Speakers – “A Call to Holiness”

John & Sr Lucy

TODAY IS THE DAY!

By Johnny Bertucci

When I was a teenager, I found myself, through the invitation of a friend, at a prayer meeting. And even though my teenage years were fairly normal, attending that prayer meeting changed my life forever. It was there that I was introduced to this grace we call baptism in the Holy Spirit. Perhaps because I was so affected with this grace as a teen, I have a special affinity for passing this grace along to other teenagers and young adults.

There is a generation that is ready to take on the mantle of Charismatic Renewal. The question is: “Are we ready to pass it on?”

One obstacle I believe we face is that we don’t think the younger generation is capable of dealing with the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord and he needs to be the Lord and Savior of their lives. We think we need to water it down or tiptoe around it. We think they are too immature to respond in any sort of legitimate way. The fact of the matter is: the opposite is true; they want to be challenged. They are indeed ready to respond in ways that would astonish us.

We think that teenagers do not want what adults have to offer. We think that teenagers think that adults are stupid. Watch any show  on TV and the impression is that all adults are stupid and all teens are wise. But I’m here to tell you that teens are caring adult mentors. They are craving relationships that can allow them to grow. When I was a teenager just getting involved in the Renewal I spent countless hours at the homes of the adults leading the prayer meeting. We would pour over scriptures and discuss every aspect of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the apostles. We would drink gallons of coffee and we ate too many pastries. We would go late into the night involved in some deep discussions and incredible prayer experiences. I cherish those memories even now, most of all because it was there that I was able to learn and make mistakes and still be loved.

Those of us who are baptized in the Holy Spirit almost always have this thought: “If only I had known earlier, the joy that could have been mine!” We often wait too long before allowing Jesus into our lives, especially if our Holy Spirit experience happened later in life as adults. How could we have lived so long without Jesus? Even as a teenager I thought, “Why did I wait so long?” So I’m here to say, “Don’t let that happen to another generation.” Youth are hungry, they are open, and they are responding to John Paul II’s mantra “Be not afraid.” They need one thing from us. They need for us to pass down to them what we have received. They need for us to be bold. They need for us to preach the gospel in truth hand in love.

Everyone….. EVERYONE….. Has the same need: to have the love of Christ in their heart. I don’t care if you are 2, 16, 30, 60, or 100. With Christ, life has meaning. Without Christ, life is tolerable at best, unbearable at worst. And what better gift could someone give to a teenager than a life lived in the Spirit?

One problem I think we adults have with teenagers is that their theology is not yet fully formed, not yet perfect. We are hesitant to let them speak, give prophecies, share a word. It’s true that, as they are being formed they will make mistakes. But I would caution us about getting bent out of shape because of it. I have two thoughts on this. First, if we are forced to wait until we have perfect understanding of all things theological, who could speak? And second, our theology is not always perfect. We sometimes mishear the Lord. But I promise you this, if you encourage the youth to listen to the Lord and speak what they hear, you will be astounded.

There is a very common statement that almost all adults make when addressing youth at an event they almost always say something like: “Remember that your are the future of the church.” Or when they are addressing an adult function regarding youth ministry: “It’s important that we minister to our youth because they are the future of the church.” These ideas make a statement about what we think about youth: they are not ready to be baptized in the Holy Spirit as we experience it in the Renewal; not ready to be drawn into ministry and service. The fact of the matter is this: every teenager is as much a member to the Body of Christ right now, today, as the most newly baptized infant or the most senior citizens they are as much the present church as you and I. If youth think of themselves as the future of the church they will have no sense of urgency, no sense of “Today is the day of salvation.” They think, “We can wait. This is just a time of training.” But we need to realize that every day we wait, we may be losing souls for Christ. The bottom line is this: If teens can make decisions about sex, drugs and pornography, then they can make decisions about a commitment to Jesus Christ.

So the challenge is one of engagement. How best do we engage teens and young adults, especially when they seem to live in a culture that is at times so foreign to our own, and perhaps foreign to the Gospel as well? If the number of books written about youth ministry is any indication, there is no shortage of approaches. At one end of the spectrum is the idea of immersing oneself completely in the culture of the teen and young adult: listen to their music, watch their movies, read their books, watch Youtube videos, get a Facebook account. At the other end of the spectrum is to determine their culture is off limits and ignore it all together.

I believe any ministry of evangelization, whether to adults or teens is relational in essence. The Gospel message, conveyed in love, is the most powerful force on earth. It’s comforting to those of us called to evangelization that the Gospel message has remained the same for over 2000 years. Perhaps the methods of communication have changed, but not the message. If we are to witness to the next generation we will do so by presenting the Gospel to them in love. We will form relationships with them. We will do this because we, who are on fire with the love of God, who have found the pearl of great price, are unable to keep this joy to ourselves. We do this by being who we are in Christ whatever state of life God has called us to. Do we enter into the teen’s world? Not when it compromises who we are. We do not become less mature in order to fit in. Our goal is not to relate to them on their level, as a peer, but rather to offer them the wisdom that comes from age, experience and years of walking with the Lord.

It might be prudent to read a few chapters of the latest teen novel or watch a clip of the hot new teen movie in order to enter into an informed discussion with a group of teens, to point out where this particular form of entertainment contradicts the Gospel message and where it is compatible with the Gospel. With just a little time spent on the right websites, adults may be surprised to discover how much good Christian music; videos and literature resemble the media teens are flocking to today, without the negative messages.

There are many tools available to us today to spread the gospel, most are a direct result of the Internet and mobile devices. We would be remiss if we did not employ this technology in order to advance the Kingdom of God. Yet we must never forget that most are won to the Kingdom of God because of a personal witness to the goodness of God in a person’s life. If we live the life that God has called us to live, and we engage with those around us, from toddlers to senior citizens, then those God puts in our path will be confronted with the love and truth of the Gospel and will be compelled to make a decision. Romans 10:14-15 says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have to believe in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Look down at your feet. Are you bringing good news?

Johnny Bertucci is a member of the National Service Committee. He and his wife Leslie have been involved in youth ministry for many years. They reside with their children in the New Orleans area.

Reprinted from: October/ November/ December 2011 issue of PentecostToday

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Living Out the Year of Faith

By Mother Lucy Lukasiewicz DLJC

Whenever I read this scripture something within me shudders. When Jesus comes will he find faith? Will he find faith in me? Will he find faith in my family, my church, my religious community? Will he find faith in you?

Pope Benedict XVI wrote the Apostolic Letter “Porta Fidei” (The Door of Faith) announcing that the whole Church will celebrate a Year of Faith beginning on October 11, 2012, the 5oth anniversary of the opening of the Vatican II Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The year of Faith will end on November 24, 2013 on the feast of Christ the King. The Pope is the good shepherd and he is looking for green pastures that would give life to our souls.

I am grateful that God is giving the people of God this “Year of Faith” to re-discover faith or perhaps in certain circumstances recover faith. Our Holy Father says that faith must begin first and foremost with a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Fostering Our Relationship with Jesus

What are some ways we can foster a relationship with Jesus? Prayer draws the heart of the creation to his/her Maker. This prayer should incorporate audible words on the lips as well as the inaudible words from the heart. A communication from the heart of God to the heart of this person should be happening simultaneously as both are enjoying each other’s presence. The heart longs to please God so it joins in praise and worship to the all powerful, all holy, omnipotent God. The individual now enters into the door of faith, porta fidei. As we enter this portal of faith relationship we “set out on a journey that lasta a lifetime” (PF#!). This journey begins with relationship. This journey begins with prayer.

We have the resources readily available for renewal and faith; let us take advantage of them.

The time has come to rediscover the power of the Word of God in our lives. “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom 10:17). It isn’t enough to hear God’s Word on Sunday at  Mass or even hearing God’s Word at daily Mass. It is time to “feed” on the Word of God in daily prayer so as to allow Jesus to preach to us. So powerful is this that God not only speaks to us and gives us direction but also strengthens the heart and mind to withstand doubt, distractions, and following false ideologies. I once heard a young priest recall that as a teenager in a prayer meeting, there was an “expectant faith” that God would speak through Holy Scripture. The more I pondered what he said, the more I came to ponder the power of the Word of God. It has the power to heal past hurts and bring reconciliation with our enemies. It has the power to give us the direction in our lives. It has the power because it is the voice of God speaking to us. In this year of growing in faith, are we willing to spend more time in reflecting and praying with the Word of God?

Meeting Jesus Sacramentally

We are called to intensify the celebration of faith in the Eucharist and in the Sacrament of Penance. We know that as our relationship with Jesus intensifies so does our need for his presence sacramentally also intensify. Jesus draws his beloved to himself in Holy Communion, nourishing the soul as well as the body. In return when we draw near to Jesus in communion a greater intimacy happens. During this time of Communion let Jesus minister to your and speak to you.

All are summoned to “an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world” (PF#6). I once heard these: “True renewal happens when the confession lines are longer.” This was said by a very wise and outstanding bishop. I have seen this on the campus at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio a number of years ago while attending courses in theology, the young people responded to the friar’s examples and fiery homilies of repentance and forgiveness. Because of this, the confession lines were many and longer. The Lord is calling for the witness of authentic and renewed conversion of life. The Lord is calling you.

Rediscovering the Documents

Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged us to rediscover the documents of Vatican II and to revisit the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We have not yet come to understand the profound impact these documents have for us. In the Holy Father’s address to the Roman Curia, “If we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutics, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.” We have the resources readily available for renewal and faith; let us take advantage of them. The Pope asks us to take this year to rediscover the blessings of Vatican II and the Catechism.

Commitment to Evangelize

“It is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us” to evangelize (2Cor 5:14). As the call to repentance requires a response so too does the love of Christ. The love of Jesus is a fire that impels us and a light that attracts others. We are given the mandate to be “lovers of God” and to love our neighbor. The greatest act of love is to share the kerygma, the Good News of Jesus. Pope Benedict asks for a “stronger ecclesial commitment to the new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communication the fait” (PF#7). Practically speaking, we ca communicate our love and our faith in the home as well as the workplace. In the home we can model Christ by blessing one another and by living out acts of charity and forgiveness. A religious congregation is like a family, we try to model Christ in this way. In a tangible way, it has become a practice for us to give scripture cards or witness cards to the people we meet and in the letters we write. I am also seeing in e-mails people including a scripture verse, a quote from the Holy Father, a quote from a saint or a Christian message along with their signature. I have seen a men’s religious congregation and various individuals use Facebook strictly for evangelization purposes. I have heard of people purchasing Christmas Madonna and Child stamps and using them year-round. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and impel your to be a credible witness; he will give you’re the inspiration to spread the Gospel.

Other Ways to Grow in Faith

  1. Read “Porta Fidei” (The door of Faith) and meditate on it.
  2. Reflect on the Vatican Documents, the wittings of the Church Fathers, the Catechism.
  3. Familiarize yourself with Catholic Apologetics. There are many websites that will help you know and defend your faith.
  4. Become more familiar with the lives of the saints.
  5. Intensify and increase the witness of charity by doing random acts of kindness and great acts of generosity.
  6. Speak to others about your faith. There is nothing more powerful than a personal testimony of faith through God’s healing, God’s intervention and God’s assistance in trials. Offer to pray with individuals.
  7. Proclaim the New Evangelization.

Mother Lucy Lukasiewicz is the Superior General of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ community based in Prayer Town, Texas. She presently serves as a member of the National Service Committee.

Reprinted from: October/ November/ December 2012 issue of PentecostToday