A Disciple’s Gameplan

One area in which I think all Christians ought to grow is in trust. If you have read my words here in the past, it would be clear that I have been blessed to have experienced an encounter with God that changed my heart and my mind. However, that encounter was not by chance, nor was it (in some way) unanticipated.

Through the youth ministry in the parish in which I grew up, I was attending a special Mass held for high school students, just after my graduation. In the course of his homily that evening, Fr. J.R. invited those in attendance to, as they approached for Holy Communion, make a prayer asking God to give what he knew we needed, rather than what we thought we wanted.

On this occasion, I did as Fr. J.R. suggested and, spoiled son as I was, I received what I sought from God. I remember making one suggestion in particular, thinking, “maybe this, maybe not.” Undeservedly, my suggestion was granted, but not as the end I thought it. Through my suggestion, which I wanted for short-sighted and selfish hopes, God set me on the course that brought me a gift I never knew I wanted, or thought possible.

In the end, what God knew I needed was himself.

All of this I bring up reflecting on the second reading for today’s Liturgy. Here Paul lays out a pretty solid game plan for the aspiring disciple:

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)

Prayer was transformed for me when the fruit of that prayer, as a teenager, began to mature. No more was it a matter of wanting or needing desired results or outcomes but of seeking “the will of God for [me] in Christ Jesus.” Prayer without ceasing became natural, over the ensuing years. True, profound rejoicing became a genuine response to each glimpse of grace at work around me. Giving thanks became a first response to answered prayer and even to unwanted inconveniences.

Testing everything soon became a way of life, as I attended class in a Catholic, liberal arts college with a less-than-stellar reputation for its theology. I learned to retain the good and, by that kernel of good, argue for the orthodox interpretation of Catholic teaching.

As we prepare to observe the Incarnation of the Lord in the Nativity, let us put Paul’s advice into practice. Let us rejoice always, praying without end, giving thanks ceaselessly. Let us not quench the Spirit, but seek to foster its work in our hearts and in our midst. Let us trust God’s word, as it comes to us. Let us test the various pursuits in our lives, keeping what is good. Moreover, let us jettison what is not good, not of God, thus may we refrain from every evil.

Lord, God of peace, as you call us by your own faithfulness, make us perfectly holy in spirit, soul and body, preserved for the coming of Jesus Christ

David Dunst
Music Director


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