The stories of the Bible, as they connect to my life stories (big and small), draw me deeper into faith. Rubbing shoulders and breaking bread with the community, draws me deeper into relationship with God and with others, like you. Reflection and prayer draw me deeper into my daily practice of faith.
That’s me. Those are my words. How about you? If you could name four essential elements for faith growth, what would the four words be? I really want you to cook on this (pun!) and answer the question. I’ve created a page on our website called Essential Elements where you can drop in your four words. And there’s a little reward for doing so, both for you and for the parish. Info in the bulletin.
What has this got to do with the Feast of the Ascension? Good question. Let me answer it this way. At our Staff Meeting on Wednesday, when we were reflecting on today’s Gospel reading, JD Duran said Ascension represents the passing of the baton. It marks the point at which the disciples must take up the mission begun by Jesus, with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course.
And that’s what we celebrate next Sunday. Pentecost. The arrival of the Holy Spirit, like a rush of wind, like tongues of fire to strengthen and inspire the disciples to carry on Jesus’ mission.
Passing it on. That’s what it’s all about. And I would contend that you can’t pass it on if you don’t know the essentials. Samin Nosrat teaches us to cook via her four essentials: salt, fat, acid, and heat. Another chef would teach us differently, but if a good teacher, s/he will communicate what is essential and basic to her/him.
Passing it on. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s what’s clear in our readings today. In both Acts (our first reading) and Mark (our Gospel reading) the author tries to capture and tell us Jesus’ last words while still on earth.
From Acts: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth."
From Mark: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
Essentially, go out to the world and spread the good news. That’s the message Jesus leaves us with. That’s our call. But you know what? You can’t pass on what you don’t know in your head and believe in your heart.
To that end, here’s my challenge to you, and to me, for the summer months. I invite you take up what I am calling the “Spiritual Growth Challenge.” I challenge you to take intentional steps to grow in faith and to nurture your spirituality this summer, over and above going to Mass on the weekend. Can you spend 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour each week on faith growth and learning?
I’ve got some options for you that I’ve posted on our website. In addition to the “Essential Elements” activity—which will take only a few minutes—I have posted three separate categories of faith growth, each with a variety of topics, to sink your brain and your heart into. Think of them as playlists – not music for entertainment, but videos, readings, reflections, and simple activities all designed to enhance your personal faith journey.
Playlist #1. Personal Journey in Faith explores excellent faith-learning resources focused on the essential themes of the Catholic Christian faith. Seven components.
Playlist #2. Christian Practices explores the practices of the Christian way of life and connects them to the “signs of the times” – the struggles, joys, needs, and hungers of people and communities today, and equipping us with the skills to live the practice in daily life. Four components, with more on the way.
Playlist #3. Finding Life’s Purpose. Sometimes we discover our calling through experiences of joy and celebration, other times through difficulty, challenge, or loss. Along the way, to be sure, we discover a loving, merciful, and gracious God who wants to accompany us on our life’s journey. Eight components.
More playlists will come online soon.
Here’s your incentive. I mentioned that each playlist has a number of components. Some components will take longer than others, but for each component that you complete, you will get a reward and so will the parish. You will receive a “badge” of completion for that component. Yea! See how many badges you can collect! And, thanks to the generosity of a couple of donors, the parish will receive a $10 donation for each completed component to support our Faith Formation programming for youngsters next year – Baptism Prep, Children’s Liturgy of the Word, Sacramental Prep, and Youth Ministry.
In a couple weeks, I’ll host an orientation session to this “Spiritual Growth Challenge” and take you on a tour of the web pages. In the meantime, find your way to the Essential Elements page and tell us your four essential elements for faith growth. Yes, you’ll get a badge, and the parish will get $10 for faith formation!
The feast we celebrate today, the Ascension of the Lord, is all about passing on the baton from Jesus to the disciples, to us, to the next generation. As you embrace the Spiritual Growth Challenge, you will equip yourself with the capacity to heed Jesus’ last words on earth, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel.” And collectively, your faith forming efforts this summer will empower our faith forming efforts with youngsters next year. It’s a win, win, win!