God Dares You
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to lead a retreat across from the Six Flags amusement park in Vallejo, California. During one of my breaks, I was looking out across the lake (the lake separated the retreat center from the amusement park) at one impressive roller coaster after another; each structure seemingly stretching itself above the tree line. Gazing out at the splendor of the park, I was thinking to myself: “Wow, that looks like a lot of fun—a day of great adventures!” A few minutes later, the Holy Spirit “whispered” in my ear a question, “Is there a greater adventure than the Christian and Catholic vocation?” After a pause, I quietly said to myself, “no.”
In point of fact, the word adventure belongs to the Christian and Catholic vocation. What do I mean? The word adventure is often translated “to take a risk; to take a chance”, which speaks to what is necessary for us to experience the adventure itself, but if you go to the origin of the word, you find a more complete understanding of what an adventure is all about. The Latin adventurus best translates “to come to; to arrive at, or achieve." Essentially, we are made to see our adventures as both “risks" and “achievements.”
What does the Catholic Church view as the greatest achievement? Holiness in mission, which leads us to Heaven. Heaven is the end goal for all the Christian faithful (the CCC notes that peace is the goal of the Christian life; not in the sense of a negotiated settlement, but in its relational sense--covenant harmony with God. Mass, as a sharing of heaven on earth, is covenant harmony with God, par excellance). In order to achieve this goal, we need to be willing to take risks, say yes to the will of God that at times is filled with great mystery, the unknown. In other words, we need to see the Catholic vocation of holiness in mission as the one great adventure that views challenges as possibilities to get closer to heaven .
Maybe we have not tried Catholicism, because all we see is a punitive, institutional authoritarian waving its finger at us, telling us “no” at every turn; a body of people telling us not to have fun. Consequently, the Catholic Church and its life is perceived as boring. in the words of one associate of mine, "If I want to put myself asleep I just think of being Catholic...there is no excitement there." Maybe this associate of mine was exaggerating, maybe not, but he was making a point--"the Catholic thing...that is boring!" Now, let us return to the roller coaster.
For many of us, a roller coaster presents a great rush of excitement—the thrill of a lifetime, and yet, for you to get on the roller coaster, for reasons of safety, you are told there are certain things you cannot do. No one questions the moral value of such rules and regulations because there is a consensus the engineers have our best interest in mind, our well-being. In a more than similar way, we are made to see the Catholic faith is surrounded by a series of “thou shall nots" because behind every no is an immeasurable greater yes--a yes to holiness in mission.
I find it interesting that such words and phrases as “conversion”, “mission”, “discipleship”, and “discerning God’s plan for my life” are viewed as realities that belong to the mundane. Ironically, the very things we turn to stimulate our senses, and send us on a thrill of a lifetime, always leave us pining for more, because the finite can never satisfy our thirst for the infinite. We have these encounters that captivate our attention, but leave us clutching at empty space, because they cannot satisfy our deepest longing, to be loved by God. So I pose to you a question: what captivates your attention? Have we allowed our encounters with Christ, the incarnation and sum total of truth, to dare us along the paths of “conversion”, "mission", and “discipleship." If we have, we are ready to embrace the Christian journey not as something boring, but the adventure of a lifetime; an adventure that is full of surprises (and He is full of those!), excitement, and a joy that is everlasting.