Church Life, Spirituality

mission and confidence

The message of Christianity is one of self-distrust. You cannot do it on your own. We hate hearing this because we feel like it denies or limits our power. "I have the power" we say to ourselves, "I'm confident I can do this, build this, become this." Jesus doesn't think so.

Confidence is a compound word meaning With Faith, to have faith in one's own ability to accomplish, to succeed. The gospel tells us to stop having confidence in ourselves. We cannot accomplish. We cannot succeed. Apart from Christ, "you can do nothing."

I said this is a part of the gospel message, which means that it is supposed to be "Good News". How is this good news? Are not the greatest and most powerful among us men and women who had confidence in themselves, who excelled in their abilities?

We cannot trust ourselves and thus ought to have no self-confidence, but this truth does not limit the Christian. Connected, as we are, to the Source of life and power, the distrust of one's own self places the locus of trust on Him Who is ever-faithful.  Our confidence lies not in ourselves, but in Him, in His promises which rely upon His infinite power. Thus the ability to accomplish the impossible is within reach because it is an eternal hand that reaches out, not our finite and weak hands.

This is good news indeed. God has put this power in us, transforming us, instilling within us the divine life that He died and rose to give us. This is our new birthright through Baptism. We work as laborers in His vineyard and we do so at His good pleasure.

The problem in ministry happens when we cease to acknowledge that it is His mission and His vineyard and His grace that enables the labor. The moment we act as if we are doing this work for Him and loose sight of the part that's in Him and through Him, is when we rely on our own weak and feeble powers. It becomes the time we have confidence in ourselves, trusting our own abilities and intentions. And that becomes the doorway to pride's corrupting influence.

The point is to remember that this is not our mission we are inviting Him on, but that this has always been and will always be His mission, and we are just privileged to participate. God did not invite us to take over His mission with our own creative ideas. He does not even want us to be co-pilots. Those who serve in ministries that seek to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ are just as much along for the ride as those to whom we speak and work with; that is to say, we never stop being disciples just because we have become apostles.

It is His mission. He is directing it. Our role is to follow His lead, to discern His moves and follow after Him.

In parish work I noticed a tendency of self-trust and self-confidence and how it destroys ministries and cause heartache. Many good people come up with good ideas and then implement them, without prayer or discernment, and then ask (or demand) that the Lord show up and make it fruitful. We build institutions and ask the Lord to be pleased with us and to bless them. But this is the altogether wrong way to go about our Christian work.

First, we discern where God is moving in our parish and community. Then, after much prayer, we seek Him out and begin the work that He is calling us to do. Where the Spirit already is, that's where we build our institution, not the other way around. Instead of asking God to show up, why don't we draw ourselves into silence and listen to where God is telling us to show up.

But we don't, do we? We see a need and immediately go about filling it. No homeless ministry? I'll start a soup kitchen! High divorce rate? We build a pre-Cana marriage prep team and have 10 retreats a year!

Activism replaces contemplation. Doing supplants being. And the Catholic Church is just another social work organization where people feel good about themselves for "doing something" about all these problems.

Meanwhile, Christ is in the corner, wondering if anyone has noticed Him standing there, especially since He is about to walk out the door..