Faith, pop culture, and headline reflections from Fr. Mike Schmitz.
Are You Called to Be a Missionary?
Are you called to be a missionary? You may be one already!
Saint Francis Xavier and Saint Therese of Lisieux are co-patrons of missionaries, although they lived very different lives. While St. Francis traveled all over the world proclaiming the gospel of Christ, St. Therese was unable to travel and did what she could in her own town. Both were missionaries in their own right.
Being a missionary isn’t about traveling or living a crazy and unpredictable life. It’s about spreading the word of God to those who need to hear it. So the question is, are you called to be a missionary?
As baptized Christians, we are all called to be missionaries in our own unique way. By living the life God has laid out for us, we can evangelize exactly who God wants us to reach, just by doing our best to live according to his commandments. This is also a part of the universal call to holiness, which not only states that every person is called to be a saint, but also that every person is called to be an apostle—or missionary—of Christ.
St. Francis Xavier lived in a Christian era, and had to leave his home in order to evangelize. We, however, live in a post-Christian era, where the majority of people are not God loving people. The era we are living in right now holds the same kind of ignorance of Christ that the apostles lived in. This means that we don’t have to go anywhere to evangelize. We can start being missionaries right in our own home towns.
St. Francis and St. Therese weren’t missionaries because of where they went—they were missionaries because of their hearts. There are so many people in our daily lives that don’t know God. Let us live out our call as missionaries and bring Christ to those God has given us.
“Is This a Sin?”
If you begin to sin but don’t follow all the way through… is it still a sin? It depends.
We’re offered two different scenarios. In one, the person is prevented from sinning due to external factors that make it impractical or impossible to commit the sin they had planned on. In the second scenario, we see someone preparing to sin, but then freely and rationally choosing not to. The first scenario is a sin, but the second is a virtuous act. Why?
Because the second person freely decided not to commit sin, they morally aligned themselves toward the good when they had previously been aimed towards sin. They redirected their will toward God when they could have continued to go against him. In a simpler sense, they were headed down a bad path, but then turned around before making it to their destination.
That being said, while the second person did realign themselves toward virtue, the extent to which they consented to this sin ahead of time may be worth a confession. Even though the person chose virtue in the end, their soul was still burdened with those thoughts, and in confession, those burdens are lifted through forgiveness.
The beautiful part about our faith is that we have a Savior who is always ready and willing to forgive us. Surrendering our hearts to him creates a living relationship with God, where we trust his knowledge of our hearts, and run to him whenever we are in need of saving.
What It Truly Means to Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”?
To some, maybe it’s something that their parents would say to them when they heard them gossiping. Maybe it’s something you were taught in school, or maybe it’s a phrase you’ve mocked or not taken seriously. But this phrase is synonymous with one of the greatest commandments Jesus gave us: to love our neighbor as ourselves. Here’s where the connection comes in:
We are all sinners. We are all sinners, yet we want the best for ourselves, and we love ourselves enough to want good things for our lives. Just as we want good things for ourselves despite our sinfulness, we should want the best for our brothers and sisters despite their sinfulness.
Sin plagues every human heart. While some may struggle more than others, we are all tempted on a daily basis to turn away from God. To love the sinner and hate the sin is to acknowledge that our brother or sister is constantly being pursued by God. In order to love the sinner, we must love ourselves enough to strive for a better relationship with God. How we view sin starts with how we view our own struggles, and if we are constantly getting down on ourselves about falling into temptation, that attitude will transfer to our brothers and sisters who need our support.
To love the sinner and hate the sin—and to love our neighbors as ourselves—we have to be real about what sin is. No one is so far gone that God cannot reach them. He’s pursuing their hearts constantly, and every little victory counts in their walk toward eternity. God is so patient with us. Let’s glorify him and imitate him by being patient with one another— and with ourselves.
Struggle Is Necessary
It may sound counterintuitive, but choosing the harder path may make our life easier. Here’s why:
When caterpillars go into their cocoons for hibernation, they struggle against the barrier of the cocoon for months on end, trying to get out. It’s only when their wings have developed and they’re strong enough to fly that they are able to break free and escape. If a caterpillar were to somehow get set free from its cocoon before it was strong enough to escape on its own, it wouldn’t be able to fly, and would eventually die.
The same is true in a way for us. When we face struggles in life, they have great potential to make us stronger. Not only do hard things make us stronger, but they prepare us more for harder temptations, trials, and suffering in the future. In a way, we are made more able to handle future struggles because of the little hard choices we make daily.
Some struggles are greater than others, and maybe there are some things that you are constantly trying to avoid because they are so hard for you to do. But nevertheless, these are the struggles that you are faced with. These are the things God wants to make you stronger through. Because he knows what you need to continue on your path, and he knows that these struggles are not only going to make you stronger, but will intensify the victories he has prepared for you. There are some things that come from struggle that are so much more glorious than a scare-free life, and the Lord is ready to show you what triumphs he has in store for you.
If You Think This Year Was Supposed to Be Different
We might have had different plans for this year, but were they really supposed to happen?
We all wonder whether we’re actually following God’s will for us, but the reality is that, unless we are directly going against the Lord in some way, we are doing his will by just living our life. Wherever this year has taken us, whatever it has us doing, is exactly where God wants us to be. This is one of the joys of being a faithful Christian: as long as we are following the laws of the Lord, we can never be outside his will.
This is true even today, as everything we thought we knew about this year was turned on its head. We may have had radically different plans and expectations for where we’d be now, or what we’d be doing, but it wasn’t the will of God. God has us exactly where he wants us, and as long as we remain faithful to him, we’ll follow the path that he’s paved for our lives.
So, what if we’re not following the Lord? This is what the call of repentance is all about: if we’re not following the Lord, then we get to change the course of our lives and turn toward him through confession and penance. And you know when a perfect time for this is? Christmas!
Because of Christmas, our lives don’t have to be a lost cause, or a dead end. Because God gave his only begotten son to us, we can turn our lives around and aim them at the light of Christ. It’s through the incarnation that eternal life with God became a possibility, and that repentance was born. Because Christ came to earth, we can use our lives to follow the will of God, even after steering off course. We now have a future, through the power of our Father’s love.
The Most Important Part of Any Conversation
It’s those last five minutes of conversation with someone that makes them feel like a number or like a known and loved individual. We’ve all had conversations that makes us feel like the other person doesn’t really care to be talking to us. But we’ve also had conversations that stick with us because the person we talked to made us feel so loved that we can’t help but be uplifted by them.
This is what those last five minutes are all about: making the other person feel wanted, known, and loved. This is true of any relationship; even our relationship with God, in prayer. How are we spending those last five minutes of prayer? Are we letting our minds drift to other things, or are we giving God our full attention?
Jesus gave so much during his time on Earth. Just as he continually gave his time to those around him, we are called to do the same. Use the last five minutes with anyone you’re talking to—including God—to show them what they mean to you and to make them feel worth paying attention to.