One of the most commonly played sending forth hymns I hear at mass, at least in my home parish, is ‘Go Make a Difference’. It is a very catchy tune; one that brings about a third of the parishioners to some form of synchronized clapping. I wonder, though, has this particular hymn become something of a mindless habit rather than a call to action?
About a year ago, I read through a book entitled ‘Rebuilt’ by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran and it completely wrecked my life. Going through the chapters, I encountered testimony after testimony of how Fr. Michael flipped the script on the ‘business as usual’ mindset of his parish and garnered lots of criticism (and even more success). What do I mean by success? Put simply, Fr. Michael made a point to stop catering to the ‘regulars’ and to start making disciples. Needless to say, I became so inspired and empowered to carry forth all of this newfound insight into my home parish. Initially, I was convinced that our parish needed to throw out the playbook and step up our game just so we could live up to our greatest potential. Call it tunnel vision, call it being overzealous, call it whatever you want… but the mental list of necessary changes I had compiled was met with great resistance. Apparently, people don’t like being ‘encouraged’ to change by the parish youth minister. On many occasions God humbled me and repeatedly brought me back to reality; this was definitely a season of personal growth.
Through the whole experience, I learned how to communicate a bit more effectively with my coworkers in ministry. I also learned that any significant shift in ministry must be accompanied by a great deal of prayer. You see, I was ready to change the world after reading ‘Rebuilt’ but I had not spent any time in front of the Blessed Sacrament regarding the issue. In fact, my only prayers for some period of time usually sounded like “Oh God! Why won’t they wake up?!” Eventually, when I decided to get on my knees about it, other events in my life were beginning to shift. I realized that the manner in which I dealt with change is what God was actually working on, not my home parish. Within the last year I began a master’s program online, my wife & I found out we are expecting (again!), and our income situation began to deteriorate. I was a wreck, again… My immediate thoughts were “What am I going to do about this?” or “How will we make it?”
Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
– Matthew 14:28-31
Sleepless nights and stress-filled days ensued for many months. I wasn’t trusting God, my prayers were aimed in the wrong direction, and I was completely relying on my own abilities to make it all work. What’s more important is that I don’t feel as though I am alone in my approach towards dealing with these desolate seasons in life. There are many times when, in my immaturity, I spent countless hours worrying only to find that God was working it out the entire time. As Christians, we spend our lives in a quest for holiness, only to find that holiness comes not in great deeds but in great surrender. While reading through Rebuilt I realized that in the moments when my prayer life has taken a backseat I’ve become an obstacle to the transformative ministry of the Church. I’ve begun preaching a truth that I rarely put into practice. We are each called to abandon our agendas daily and take up the work of the Church. Making disciples, whether in parish ministry or in our own lives, is not an effort meant to lead people to ourselves. Rather, in how we live and in the impact we have on others, we should point others to Christ in all that we do. It is only when we get out of the way that we can ‘Go Make a Difference.’
Rebuilt (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2013) by Fr. Michael White & Tom Corcoran