I met a nice young college student at a ministry fair this weekend. He was studying criminal justice and went to church on Sundays. “Oh that’s so nice,” commented the woman sitting next to me. “I’m sure that makes your mom happy.”
“Is there FOCUS or a Newman center where you are?” I asked.
They had some Catholic thing, but he wasn’t in to the “whole youth group thing.” I get it. There’s more to life than ice breakers and snacks. But the encounter with that young man has been nagging me all week.
That’s because there’s more to life than “just going to Church on Sundays.” We in American have this “good person” philosophy. If we do “good” things, go to Church on Sunday, and are a “good person,” than you will go to Heaven. That’s it.
But our “good person” theory is completely out of touch with reality, and out of touch with the heart of the Gospel message. If my goal in raising my children is just that they are good people who go to Church on Sunday, then I have missed the point of Catholic parenting. Of course, I do hope they are good, and that they go to Church, but I hope and pray for more than that as well.
In last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” The answer that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God – that changes everything. It changed Peter from a loud mouthed fisherman to a fearless leader and the first Pope.
The Incarnation. God becomes man, takes on human flesh, conquers human sin. That’s more than being a good person. It’s being united to the Divine and bringing that relationship with the One who is God into every aspect of our lives. It affects our decisions, our vocation, and everything about us. It brings the Kingdom of God to here and now. A relationship with Jesus is what I hope for my kids.
You see, I am afraid of what this country will look like when my kids are in college. We are all comfy with the ability to go to Church every week and think we have religious freedom. But our government and our culture is increasingly hostile to Christianity. Is forcing a baker to make a cake for a gay couple religious freedom? Is forcing nuns to pay for contraception really religious freedom? This is only the beginning, folks. And if our kids are simply good people who go to Church on Sunday, will they really defend their faith to the point of shedding blood?
If you haven’t seen it, go watch “For Greater Glory.” I think it’s still on Netflix. It chronicles the war in Mexico in the early 1900’s of the government versus the Catholics. They took away Catholic schools, and then Catholic Churches, and then Catholic priests, and then Catholics. The government tried to eradicate Catholicism completely only 100 years ago. And America supported their government, but thankfully the Catholics won. Look at the life of 14 year old Jose Sanches del Rio who chose death over renouncing his faith.
Look at what’s going on in Iraq, and PLEASE make a donation to help those Christians through Catholic Relief Services. To them, their faith is life or death, heaven or hell. Do you think they are shedding blood because they are “good people?” Or because the Gospel has cut them to the heart, and they are nothing without Jesus. Look at the first Christians and think of the Colosseum. Would our world and history as we know it be the same without these brave martyrs? Do you think they were content just to be good enough to go to Church on Sunday?
Mark my words, we in the United States are not immune to persecution. It’s coming our way, and how will we answer? “Don’t shoot, I’m a good person?” I challenge you, going to Church on Sundays is not enough. A living, breathing, relationship with the Word made Flesh is enough, and that’s our goal as parents for our children.
“The Blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church.” -Tertullian (2nd century Church Father)