I am Not the Measure

It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey.

–Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Jesu storm

Since becoming a missionary which began only months before Pope Francis began his papacy, I have been constantly shocked at how easily we Catholics can write off what he says.  In order justify our dissent (which often is simply a justification of our lifestyle) many of us spread second or third hand stories about his supposed pacts with the devil, the masons or worse or all- the gay lobby!  I have heard Catholics judge and condemn the pope or the church as “infiltrated” by any host of “enemies” soon after some papal proclamation challenges their lifestyle or standard of living.  This “cafeteria Catholicism” has become the norm for many Catholics who simply refuse to accept anything the Church says that isn’t in accordance with their own vision of the mission of the Church.  

“Cafeteria Catholicism” allows us to pick those “truths” by which we will measure our lives as Catholics. … “Cafeteria Catholicism” is what happens when the stance of Protagoras, regarding man as the measure of all things, gets religion — but not too much.

— Fidelity, 1986, published by the Wanderer Forum Foundation

 

When we consider the Church’s moral teachings on Abortion, Homosexuality, sexuality, the environment, social justice, capital punishment, or war among others, it is commonplace for some to simply accept those issues championed by their particular political party or news source and then write off the others as irrelevant or worse satanic!  How many Catholics who disagree with the Church on contraception or abortion can actually present the Church teaching in a coherent way?  How many Catholics who disagree with the magisterium on care for the environment or capital punishment actually try to understand the Church’s argument? I have meet few on both sides.  

 

It amazes me that someone could condemn another for dissenting from Humanae Vitae (the last encyclical written by Blessed Paul VI) and yet themselves have no problem dissenting from the teachings of Populorum Progressio (an encyclical written the year before by Blessed Paul VI).   I recently quoted Blessed Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio on facebook and was told by some of our friends and benefactors that we could lose monetary support if I kept it up.  

 

Behind much of the anger and gossip seems to be a genuine fear that the Holy Spirit is not in control, that Jesus has somehow let His Church down.  Fear, fear, fear.  It lurks behind so many uncharitable words and criticisms.  

 

I John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”  As our love increases our fear will decrease.  It’s that simple.  We need not fear the masons!  We need not fear ISIS.  We need not even fear Satan himself.  Rather as Jesus says “I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”

 

We need to love our neighbors and trust in Jesus. Mark 4:40 “Why are you afraid?  Do you have no faith.” Again 2 Timothy 1:7 “for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.”

 

As Dr. Felix Just, S.J. points out “The most commonly repeated phrase in the whole Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, is “Have no fear!” or “Do not be afraid!”

http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/HaveNoFear.htm

 

I am not afraid of where the Pope is calling us.  I believe he is speaking for Jesus.  I have dove into his teachings first hand and found a medicine for my soul.  I am praying for each of you who read this blog that God rescues His flock from fear “to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our lives.” Luke 1:75

 

Jonathan

Advertisements

Back in General Cepeda: Our First Week

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

20170604_193413[1]

On the mountain in General Cepeda

It is so good to be back in General Cepeda!  A month or so ago our family was invited to help staff a number of short term mexican mission trips down here.  We were thrilled at the opportunity to revisit a place that has meant so much for our family.  We spent our first year of missions in General Cepeda and we were eager to return and help others encounter the beautiful people who call it home.  

 

God has reminded us of His faithfulness and generosity continually during this first week.  I wanted to tell you all of two stories of how God provided for us already.  The first story is about the generosity we have encountered everyday in our fellow missionaries and the poor.  I am constantly challenged how willing the poor are to give to us from their need.  I pray God would open my heart to be more generous with all He has blessed me with.

IMG_0230

Some of our boys and the Gehl boys

Last Thursday we headed down with another family, the Gehl’s, for a five week stay here in the Casa de Misiones.  On the way down we stopped for the night in Eagle Pass, TX and met up with another missionary, Jason Healy, who would be leading the trips.  On Friday we began the adventure crossing the border and having breakfast with some of our fellow FMC missionaries just across the border in the town of Allende.  

 

After breakfast we headed over to the visa office in Allende to get our visas and the permit for the FMC van we drove down in.  I still remember sitting in the visa office remarking that God was so good.  The crossing was going so smoothly!  We would be back in General Cepeda in a few hours maybe before dinner.  And yet God in His goodness had other plans.

20170609_093816[1]

The younger crowd

As we handed over the paperwork to get the van into the country, the woman at the counter said she needed to go out and inspect the VIN number.  We went out together and she took a few pictures.  Once we were back inside she let us know that our van was too heavy to be let into the country at this time.  She pointed to law from 2016 taped up on the window.  We could possibly get permission from the border patrol to enter but would need to backtrack 30 minutes or so to the Piedras Negras Border Crossing.  We spent the next hour or so finishing up the rest of our paperwork before we had to decide what to do.  I was so blessed by the generosity of our FMC community.  The Gehl’s and Jason didn’t want us to go back alone.  Even though the Gehl’s have a newborn and five other children and it was hot and we had been driving for hours, they still cheerfully suggested that we all stick together.  It was such a blessing to travel in a group.  We drove all the way back to Piedras Negras and wandered about trying to find someone who could help us.  In the end we were told we could not get the vehicle into the country until June 12th!

IMG_0233I was a bit crestfallen but the others kept on encouraging.  It was such a blessing.  We headed back to Allende and met up with the Garza family, a Mexican family who were FMC missionaries there.  They have seven children and are quite poor.  I have been astounded at their willingness to give their all for Jesus.  We had notified them of our coming and told them we wanted to see them on the way down.  

Originally we planned to stop by for an hour or so after breakfast.  They have so very little and we had 17 people in our caravan.  These beautiful poor missionaries said not to think of eating out but that they would be providing a full breakfast for us.  We were so astonished at their generosity.  This was the same generosity I had marvelled at long ago our first year we spent here.  The poor’s generosity seems to know no boundaries.  They gave us so much food.  Good food.  They humbly waited on us and made sure we were well fed.  As we headed back to their house from Piedras Negras we wondered if they would let us leave the van at their house and we could take a bus to General Cepeda or try and squeeze into the other two vehicles.  They astonished us again.  As we pulled up they had just finished washing their own vehicle.  When they heard our plight they immediately offered us their only family vehicle with joy.  We felt the normal reluctance at accepting their gift, at putting them out etc.  They cheerfully offered us their most expensive possession without hesitation.  “We can use your van in an emergency.” Tonio said.  He also mentioned there was a small car he could use for ministry.  I was so blessed and overwhelmed by God’s goodness.  We eventually left and arrived in General Cepeda in the middle of the night.  

20170609_081839[1]

Dealing with border agents and police in Mexico is difficult at times and most of us have heard some nightmarish story of someone’s dealings with corrupt mexican police.  I have often heard of the “need” to bribe police at times.  We also have felt the temptation to do so at the customs office and on certain occasions with the police.  I have never bribed an officer.  I believe it is morally wrong.  Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live. Proverbs 15:7  God allowed my conviction to be tested this last week and once again He was so faithful never testing us beyond what we could bear. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  I Corinthians 10:13

 

Our third day in Mexico Josh, Jason and I were in Saltillo and got in a car accident.  The guys in the other vehicle told us they had a friend on the force and we would need to just give them $400.00 USD or they would call him up.  We told them we weren’t going to just give them $400.00 and that we wanted to do everything correctly according to the law.  Praise the Lord we were able to encounter a few policemen before “their guy” arrived.  After a grueling few hours of learning the laws and ways of handling accidents in Mexico we had notified our insurance agents who had to come out to the scene and assess the damage.  When all was done the other vehicle drove off and we were left with one sole police officer.  I had been talking off and on to the officer about the faith and his family.  He seemed genuinely kind but then at the end of it all he told us he would have to give us a ticket and take the driver’s licence.  We explained that we were on our way to Monterey to pick up another missionary so we needed to keep driving.  He said we would have to pay the ticket the following day and there was nothing he could do.  Then his face changed and he said he could “help us out.”  There was an awkward pause then he said he could take away the ticket if we really wanted him to.  We realized he was hinting at a bribe.  I felt so sad inside.  How many drivers had given him a bribe in the past?  I looked him in the eyes and I said “Brother, you know I am a Catholic Missionary.”  I was preparing to tell him his soul was in jeopardy, that he was allowing the love of money to destroy his heart.   “A bribe corrupts the heart.” Eccles 7:7 “Nothing that comes from bribery or injustice will last” Sirach 40:12

Before I could go further he looked at me and suddenly pointed to the sky and said he swore by God above that he wouldn’t accept any money from us.  He immediately got into his vehicle and drove away without issuing us a ticket.  We blessed him and said we would pray for him.  I felt so blessed and relieved that God provided a way out.  

 

One of the most incredible blessings of missions is constantly being challenged to live the truth we preach.  Sometimes we can quietly go about our day and merely go through the Christian motions, attending church, praying, living our lives of faith in private and in the comfort of our own boundaries.  Jesus came to free us from the narrow confines of economic comfort and the chains of “personal space.”  He asks much of us because He wants to give us so much.  Please pray for our family and all those involved with our June short term mission trips that the Lord would move hearts and touch lives.  Please pray especially that He would raise up new missionaries who would be open to carrying His message to the ends of the earth.