When you hear the term ‘MegaChurch’, what do you think of? I’m going to guess that you imagine the famous non-denominational Christian congregations of thousands of people who gather for weekly services at Churches such as Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, Pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church or Bill Hybel’s Willow Creek Community Church. Maybe you think of local stadium style non-denominational large churches such as Celebration, Impact or Southpoint Community Church.
The people that form these communities of worship are definitely doing a couple things right when it comes to faith. The first is that they are sharing their faith and relationship with Jesus Christ, with people who are not now or never were disciples of Jesus Christ. The other thing they’re doing right is getting Catholics to go to church and rediscover their faith! It’s safe to say that anywhere from 20 to 50 percent or more of the members of the non-denominational megachurches, are made up of self-described former Catholics.
Although the gates of hell will not prevail against the Body of Christ, the Church; when Christ returns, what will His ‘Body’ look like? Our most dangerous enemy, where our relationships with God are concerned, is complacency. Forward and deeper with unwavering commitment and unquenchable desire for holiness must drive us on if we are to become ever stronger living stones of His temple, lifelong citizens of His Kingdom. We all too easily forget that our personal friendship with Christ is to be a living and vibrant relationship that cannot and will not ever fall into empty religious practice. If we are to remain in Him and He in us, we must be vigilant about that most important relationship; living our faith with integrity; and sharing our faith with joyful ease and readiness. We must love as He Loved. We must live as He Lived. We must learn what He taught. We must lead as He walked. A Catholic at Church today is potentially a former catholic tomorrow; a former Christian, a former member of a wounded, broken, bleeding body of Christ.
Salvation only comes to those who give themselves totally into God’s hands and make His will their own. The Baptist preached the eternal message of repentance; a deep and radical change in thinking and behavior. Our baptism of water and fire in the Spirit, brings into existence a union with the divine for which we were made. It brings us into relationship with the living God, not just for our personal re-creation but also for our participation in the remaking of the whole world. We must not become complacent and comfortable.
The readings of this week emphasize that our faith must be more than pious acts and religious appearance, and the Gospel points out that producing "good fruit" is the living testimony of our relationship and commitment to Jesus. As we prepare the way of the Lord this Advent, let us fully realize and activate the gifts of the Holy Spirit which we received in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.
In Advent, we remember how God humbled himself and became man, but we also re-live that coming in the "today" of our own lives. He wants to keep pouring out the benefits of our redemption, to make a new surge of grace in the world, in the Church, and in each one of our lives.
If this season is to be meaningful, there must be a genuine coming of Jesus into our lives. It is a time to remind ourselves of our constant need for radical transformation. Clearing the way for Christ to enter more deeply into our society and our lives cannot happen without repentance. After all, only the wounded need healing, only the lost need saving. And, what good is acknowledging our selfishness and sin unless we also decide to leave that sin behind, and then make concrete actions to carry out that decision?
Because God knows how hard it can be for us to repent and allow Him to transform us, God provided the sacrament of His mercy, confession. All we need to do is examine our conscience, recall to mind our sins. Then we kneel before the Lord of unending love and mercy, admit our guilt and seek His forgiveness. Confession is like a new baptism, a fresh start, a rebooting of the spiritual life, a simple, concrete way that God has given us to let his grace and forgiveness replenish our hope and renew our love.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.