Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lenten Challenge:

Amanda presented FOCUS Greek with a challenge during this Lenten season: go to Mass every day and go to confession once a week for a month. Now I know most of you think this is insane due to the crazy busy schedule of a Greek student because we are constantly on the pursuit of excellence. But just hear her out. 

Going to mass and confession transforms us, every time we receive these sacraments we are made more into the image and likeness of Christ and get stronger every time we go. I know that it seems like an extra hour a day is a lot to give up; that between homework and meetings there is no time. But the point she made was that if you start to go to mass every day you won’t need to study as much or work as hard on your projects. (And no she isn’t telling you that you will stop caring about school). 

When Adam and Eve fell in the garden, our relationship with God was broken and our intellect diminished. But, every time that we expose ourselves to Christ, He makes us more himself. When we go to mass and confession we can think clearer in all aspects of life because we no longer carry around the burden of sin. When we grow in closer to Jesus we no longer worry about what others think of us, how we look, or what are future will hold because we know that our relationship with God is what truly matters. She personally experienced just how true this was as she started attending daily mass and realized her school work got easier and she built stronger relationships with her sorority sisters. She promises that if you do this for a month you will never stop, you will realize how much better your life has become with Jesus as the center and will want to continue to grow.

Mother Teresa had the Missionaries of Charity saying a holy hour a day and as they began to expand and help more and more people the sisters asked her to decrease the holy hour to a half hour so that they could have more time helping people. Instead of following their request Mother Teresa upped the time to two hours. However, instead of helping less people, they ended up doubling the amount of people they were able to help.

Lesson learned: when we give the time to God that he deserves, he gives us the time to accomplish the things that we need to do. Think of what the Greek system could become if we all committed to going to daily mass and confession every week.

What it means to have Faith

Many of us claim to have faith.  But do we live this faith out? Do we really understand what it means to have faith?  Alpha Phi alumni, Amanda Teixeria, spoke at UNL's FOCUSgreek about her experience coming to college and realizing what it truly means to live out her faith.

 How do we live out our faith? By first knowing Jesus and then by sharing Him.

There are three types of relationships with Jesus:

1.      He is outside of our lives and has nothing to do with how we live
2.      He is only part of our lives.  We fit Him in during free time between practices, schools, and meetings.  He is just another activity in our schedule. 
3.      He is the center of our lives and everything we do revolves around our friendship with Christ

Another way that I sometimes like to think of this is: 1. We don’t realize that our actions are sins because we don’t know Jesus, 2. We know that what we are doing is wrong, but we continue to do it anyways and pretend like Jesus won’t mind, 3. we have Him in the center of our lives and try to avoid all sin because we realize how much it pains Him.  Being Greek makes it often hard to have Jesus at the center of our lives, we are constantly chasing after the next best thing to put us on top and we fill our lives with distracting temptations.

When Amanda would go to Frat parties, everyone would always feel sorry for her because she wasn’t drinking; but she knew she wasn’t missing out on anything, they were.  She knew that through her connection with Christ she was living in reality.  He reveals us to ourselves. We no longer try to be like anyone else, but are free to be who we were created to be.  It is attractive to see someone who knows who they are and is living a life of joy and freedom.  This is why we urgently need to build our life around Jesus; there will be ups and downs, but it will be the wildest adventure you have ever been on and the best.  God takes our small plans, blows them up, and then invites us to go on an even greater ride.   

Step two seems to scare people a lot more: Sharing Jesus

If our lives truly do revolve around Jesus and we know His love, then we would be so compelled to share His love that everyone around us would also know Jesus.  It has been said that we can see our own relationship with God based on how we invite others to know Jesus. 

People often think they are quoting St. Francis of Assisi when they say, “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary.” The thing is, he didn’t say this.  In fact, he believed something far from it.  He would often travel to up to five towns a day preaching the Gospel using words.  If I see someone helping an old lady across the street I wouldn’t just think, “Wow that person must really know Christ, I want to know Him too.” All people see is a good person.  If we never use our words, then who are we witnessing to? Ourselves? You need your words to proclaim that your actions are because you know Jesus loves you, otherwise some people may never connect the dots.

What should really be our motto is, “Use your words to proclaim God’s love; but if your actions don’t match up, then your words are useless.” What this is saying is that unless we live out what we say our faith teaches us, people will just consider us hypocrites and never feel the need to know Jesus.   

Now, imagine what might happen if we never say anything at all:  It’s the end of your life, you are riding the escalator up to Heaven when you look over and see your fraternity brother or your sorority sister on another escalator that’s going down.  What is more awkward: bringing up Jesus in a conversation now, or the moment when they look you in the eye at the end of your life and ask “why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t I deserve to be told so that I might be in Heaven also?” Let’s just say I personally hope I never hear those words.  Our Greek houses don’t need another funny guy who cracks jokes about how drunk they were the night before or someone who was on exec for all four years and is awesome; what they need is someone they can rely on to be a witness for Christ. They might not know it now, but being that witness is the best gift you could possibly give them.   Every year since Amanda has graduated she has gotten a letter or facebook message from one of her sorority sisters letting her know that they have come to know Jesus in their lives and thanking her for being that witness for them. 

People notice, even if they don’t say anything.  Our words might not bear fruit now, but they will later.  God’s hears our prayers and won’t let them go empty.   

One way to be a witness is through the idea of servant leadership; that by serving others, you become a leader.  (Prime example: Jesus) The small things do matter.  Do things that are counter cultural; by putting yourself last behind the pledges or simply just throwing out the trash when it gets full, our actions will back up our words and people will start to follow us on our journey for God. 

We don’t need to be perfect to preach the gospel, but we do need to be trying.  The biggest pitfalls we Greeks face are chastity, sobriety, and excellence.  Chastity and sobriety can be the biggest temptations and also the most detrimental to our witness.  If we are not living out the words of Jesus, why would they change their lives if they see that our lives are not changed?  Don’t let your actions turn someone away from finding God and spending eternity in Heaven.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hurting Jesus

Getting hurt, hurts. It’s as simple as that.  Especially if it is someone close to you causing the pain.  Recently I was let down by someone and I was really finding it hard to forgive them.  I wanted to, I know I needed to, I know that God was asking me to.  We know that anger only wears us down, so why do we stay angry?  I needed some advice, so I figured why not just go to confession and talk a priest (AKA Jesus).  After I was finished explaining the hurt and my inability to make it go away and forgive, he gave me some simple advice: 
Think about the last time that you hurt Jesus the way that you were recently hurt.”

After finally being open and entrusting once again, I just felt alone and lied to.  I think I am only beginning to understand how I do this to Jesus daily.  I tell him that I love him; that I want to give him my whole life (like I have said millions of times before).  He starts to trust that I will follow through this time and that I am willing to drop all worldly things and distractions for him.  He gives me his whole heart; he dies for me so that my sins may be forgiven and I can start fresh.  And then what do I do?  I say, just kidding I still want control; I want to do my own thing and forget about how You trusted me when I said I would give up my life for You, like You did for me.    I lie to him, I leave him alone. 

I couldn’t have asked for better advice.  Whenever someone wrongs me and I start to feel angry, I just think back to when hurt Jesus in that way; and let’s be honest, it was probably in the last ten minutes.  I can’t begin to imagine how much more pain Jesus feels when we wrong Him, way more than we have ever felt.  We should all make a commitment to stop hurting Jesus, stop lying to him, stop punching him in the stomach.  Thankfully, no matter what we do, He still loves us, and that alone should make us cringe at the thought of ever wronging Him.