We read the words of lament from the Prophet Jeremiah in today’s first reading, “You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.”
Do we not sometimes feel like Jeremiah? We do our jobs, we try and live good lives, we pray. Yet we seem weary. We feel that God isn’t listening or God is just doling out the grace in small doses.
There is a woman whose name is Sherry Weddell. A convert to the Catholic faith, she noticed how many Catholics seemed tired of the Catholic faith, how many were discouraged, whose spiritual life seemed listless, how many were leaving the Church. She loved being a Catholic but, coming from a Protestant background, she felt that there were constitutive elements of our faith expressed in the Scriptures, in the teaching of the saints, the insights of the Popes and bishops and in other recent church documents that the Catholic faithful didn’t hear – or if they did – they just didn’t seem to “get it.”
Sherry wanted to not only investigate why this was the case, but also to help provide the Catholic Church with the tools to energize the faithful remnant and to begin to reach out, invite, deeply touch and nourish our Catholic brothers and sisters whose faith has grown lukewarm or even cold perhaps.
We are finding in the working world that job consultants, life coaches and others are starting to ask people questions like,
Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? Chances are, you don’t. All too often, our natural talents go untapped. From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to fixing our shortcomings than to developing our strengths. (From the Gallup Company, “About StrengthsFinders 2.0”)
In other words, people feel “duped” by God when it comes to their jobs and the other tasks that they feel that they need to perform.
This phenomenon is an epidemic in the Catholic Church. Sherry found that many people are simply “mis-placed” in the Church, in their ministries, in what they try and do for the Church on a day-to-day basis. She couldn’t understand why people, really didn’t have the capabilities or talent to actually do the job, ended up in charge of certain tasks, organizations and responsibilities. This naturally led to discouragement, anger, absenteeism, low morale, high turnover, frustration, ineffective ministry and poor performance. This is where people feel “duped” by the Church.
Sherry sees a revitalization of the Catholic Church in two steps:
- God blesses you.
- You, in turn, go and bless others.
This October St. Monica Parish will be hosting a “Seminar / Day-of-Reflection” entitled, “Called and Gifted.” Called & Gifted will instruct you on:
- Your role in the mission of the Church to the world.
- The critical role that charisms play in your life as well as in your individual call from God for service to others (at work, in your family, in the life of the parish, in the community).
- The signs and characteristics of 24 Scripture-based, common charisms.
- How to actually begin discovering our own unique charisms and see how God is calling you to use them to change your life and the lives of others, of your parish, and of the world.
What are the benefits? Rather than feeling like a square peg in a round hole, discerning your “charisms” put you and your talents in the right place, in front of the right people at the right time. This can be a step in helping you:
- Discover your call from God,
- Clarify your decision-making,
- Simplify your life,
- Avoid burnout and
- Assist if you are going through a life transition.
- All of this aids in figuring out why you are here and what is your purpose in this life.
Listen to Psalm 119: 25-32:
My life is in the dust. Revive me, as you have promised. I told you my ways and you heard me: now teach me the way of your judgments. Make me understand the way of your commandments, and I will reflect on your wonders. My soul is sad and weeps: rescue me as you have promised. Turn me from deceptive paths.
This is about allowing God to tell you who you are and why you’re here. It’s also about going to God and allowing Him to hear your cries and bless you.
Sherry discovered that in each person’s faith life, there are five “thresholds:”
- Step 1: Initial trust
- Step 3: Spiritual openness
- Step 4: Spiritual seeking
- Step 5: Intentional discipleship
We talk about “getting people back to church.” Guess what that is? STEP FOUR! Unless you have some kind of trust with the person, the conversation doesn’t even begin. And step two – curiosity – doesn’t mean that they’re going to even begin to do anything. They’re just no longer hostile and just….curious. Even at step three, they are open to listen, perhaps visit, maybe read something. They’re STILL not getting into the car to drive to any “church thing.”
It is only at STEP FOUR that we finally see some movement when they are consciously seeking something – or better yet – someONE, who is Jesus Christ (Although they might not even know Him or even know that He is the one whom they are seeking).
Through steps one through four, we need to be like Ananias. Remember Ananias? Acts 9:10-22. He was the man who prayed over St. Paul (then known as Saul), when the scales fell from St. Paul’s eyes and he was able to see again. Paul stayed with Ananias and the other Disciples for a time while they “pastored” Paul as he went through the various and initial thresholds.
Listen to Psalm 28:7-9:
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts. So I am sustained, and my heart leaps for joy, and I praise him with my whole body. The Lord is strength to his people, a safe refuge for his anointed. Save your people, bless your inheritance; pasture and carry them forever!
Guess who is in charge of the pastoring – with a “small ‘p’?”
“God doesn’t need your success, he wants your faithfulness.”
“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”
In other words, God will not dupe you:
How does Pope Francis’ statement relate to today’s reading?
Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage. … We need to proclaim the gospel on every street corner, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. (America Magazine, “A Big Heart Open to God” Sept. 30, 2013).
Audio version of the homily is here: