Catholics encouraged to ‘set the world on fire’
By Mary P. Walker
On April 11, Curtis Martin, founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) presented “The New Evangelization in the Year of Mercy” at St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M University. FOCUS is a Catholic missionary outreach on 113 campuses in the U.S. that invites college students to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and to inspire others to do the same.
After praising St. Mary’s as a world leader in campus ministry, Martin encouraged attendees, mostly students, to reflect on how they live as Catholics. Is our faith something that we experience as burdensome? Or, do we live with joy and excitement, which brings others to Christ and energizes us to confront the many forms of poverty in the world?
To clarify this point, Martin used the analogy of purchasing a car. Suppose I buy a car with many performance and luxury features. Rather than starting the ignition, I pushed the car home, making it a heavy burden. The problem is not with the car, but in the way I’m using it, he said.
“Our faith is supposed to be the greatest love story of our lives,” said Martin, and when we live through this love story, we have joy. Just as we remember the special moments in our other relationships, we need to reconnect with joy in our relationship with Jesus Christ. This understanding is especially important during the Year of Mercy. For those who have not yet encountered the joy of Christ, our acts of mercy communicate this joy.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI taught that Scripture study is an antidote to living without joy and a way to energize us to do God’s work. He believes that if Catholics prayerfully read the Scriptures daily, there would be a new springtime in the church.
“You are called to be spectacular,” said Martin, who gave an example of how Scripture study enlightened his own life.
John 21:25 reminds us that the Gospels are edited and do not contain everything that Jesus did. Yet, Martin noticed that in John 1:39 two disciples followed Jesus at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. In Luke 24:29, Jesus stopped with the disciples traveling to Emmaus in the late afternoon, around 4 o’clock. Martin wondered why the Gospels recorded these times when they did not record other details.
After wrestling with this question through prayer and study, Martin believes that the evangelists recorded those times because that was when their lives changed forever. “My question is, ‘what is your four o’clock?’ Have you allowed Jesus Christ to become that real to you that you could never be the same?” Martin asked.
We too should remember our encounters with Christ and live in that joy. Christ wants us to pour out our hearts to him and let him fill us with his love. All of us experience suffering, and each of us has a particular call to confront the many forms of poverty in the world. The Year of Mercy is a time for us to reflect on this call.
“When joy encounters misery, it provokes mercy,” Martin said.
Jesus, in his mercy, loves us at our worst and closes the gap between who we are today and the joyful vision God had when he created us. Martin closed by encouraging attendees with a quote from St. Catherine of Siena, who said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”