Tag Archives: Mission

The Danger of Eternal Perdition

Hell is something that is not discussed about much anymore. Perhaps it is good that some of the old forms of presenting it are no longer with us, because Hell, in fact, is much different than it has been presented in the past. This is because, often, Hell has been presented without the necessary reference to Christ. This is because we forget that “Christ descended into Hell”. When we read this in the Creed, it is meant to express Sheol, the place of waiting. Sheol was a place of shadows, of “mere existence”. Christ’s descent there was one in solidarity with sinners by, in fact, taking on the totality of sin onto Himself and to experience the consequences of sin so that we who choose to follow Christ would need not have to.

Thus, Hell as we understand it as Christians can only be interpreted through Christ. It is not that others cannot experience the consequences of their sin in its chaotic totality, but rather that Christ was the first one to do so and only after Christ could Hell take on its full meaning. What was once a place of waiting became a place of permanent election on the part of the souls that choose Hell because they do not choose Christ.

I start off with this ‘theological preamble’ because it has much to do with what I wish to discuss today. There are many great joys that I experience here. In fact, just today, a group of guys who I have gotten to know very well missed the time of prayer. I saw them as they were standing in line and they asked me to pray with them. About 6 guys huddled around me for prayer. It was one of the coolest and neatest experiences I have ever had.

But today I also continued to experience something that I found to be painful. There is a man who has been coming here regularly but has been showing up with increasing drunkenness. To add to that, he seems to be daily growing in hate and anger. I see good in him, it is there, which is what moves me to want to love him and seek him with the same love that I seek others with.

Yet, he is also going down a dangerous path. I do not claim to know his heart, but we must also remember that words and actions can reveal the innermost depths of our hearts to the world. He has grown to cursing God, to hating Him. He does not deny that God does not exist. He has simply chosen to hate God more. And by doing so, I have seen this man hate himself more. It is sad to see someone who is so much a child of God, who has so much potential for great things in the eyes of God, to destroy himself completely. He has told me on numerous occasions that he is simply trying to kill himself through drinking.

What does one do in such situations. I have learned that there are some devils which can be cast out with prayer and fasting. I ask those who are reading this to do the same for this man. But we cannot keep it to this one man. We encounter such suffering every day. Redemption is possible for all, but it means that we must begin to sacrifice for their sake.

What has this all to do with Hell? It is simple: for the first time in my life, I have encountered it. I have seen it with my own eyes in the words and attitude of this man. Do not misinterpret this as a judgment. It isn’t. But at the same time, where he is in this moment scares me, because if he continues on this path, it can only be a bad way. That is why I am praying intensely that He find a different path, the path to God. But it is also a sobering experience for myself. What is happening in this man is simply more transparent. But we all do the same things each time we sin: we reject God, we hold ourselves back from Him. But instead we hide these small infractions and pretend they are nothing. They are not nothing. They are everything, because they can lead us down bad paths.

It is difficult to see someone seemingly choosing to accept Hell in his life right now. His attitude manifests it. But it is not hopeless, either. That is the point of Christ’s descent: He has been in that complete abandonment, isolation, in that place and state where love is impossible. He went there so that those who are experiencing in the depths of their being the utter desolation that sin brings need not despair. There is always hope to change directions towards a new horizon. And for some people, they need to go to the brinks of Hell so as to encounter Christ even there and, by virtue of that encounter, to turn themselves around and to rise with Christ in His Resurrection. The beautiful thing for all of us is that we all participate in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection by virtue of our baptism. There is always hope for change, there is always hope for redemption.

Yes, today I have seen Hell. I feel helpless to an extent as to what to do for Him. All I can do is pray, fast, love. That is all any of us can do at times. But we can also hope. The Cross is there. The Cross is only a condemnation if we choose it to be so. But it can also be the tool by which all are redeemed. The Cross is there, and it is in the Cross that I have hope. Thus I have confidence that Christ can and will work for this man. All I can do now is hope that his heart will be open to hearing the call of Christ as not a condemnation, but of a loving and merciful acceptance.

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Alive in Gallup, New Mexico

Dear friends.

My mode of writing necessitates a lot of time to prepare this post. Therefore, if any of this seems disjointed, it is due to the fact that this post has been written over many days.

I began my trek to Gallup, New Mexico on Sundays. August 26th, with a brief stay at an airport hotel so as to be able to arrive at the airport with ease the following morning. The border crossing at the airport was the easiest one I’ve ever had going to the US. The day was long due to a delayed flight which subsequently meant my missing the connecting flight. Instead of arriving at Albuquerque at 5pm, I arrived at 1am. I was ecstatic, however, that upon my arrival at my hotel that my room had been upgraded. I was on the club level at the Sheraton. It was a great treat after such a long day.

The next day was uneventful. I bought a cell phone at radio Shack for 10$! Phones are so much more inexpensive down here (as is everything else! I saw at a grocery store today a bottle of yellowtail sheraz for 5.50$!). I arrived at the Gallup train station at 7:08pm to two sisters waiting for me. They brought me to the shelter and so began the journey.

The shelter/soup kitchen has a volunteer area. I live there mostly by myself. There is another man here who looks after the men’s shelter, but his schedule is different than mine. He is a child of God with heart if gold and has been here for 25 years. I eat and pray by myself with the exception of Mass with the sisters at their house which is six blocks east of where I am staying. I walk there every morning at 6:30 to arrive for 7am mass with time to spare.

My day starts at 9am. I help with cleaning the shelter then go to the kitchen to help prepare the evening meal. The morning work ends at around 11:30 and I am free for the next four hours, which I use to eat, pray, and read. The sisters arrive back at 3:30 and I go and fold the clothes and towels for the men using the shelter that evening. The kitchen opens at around 4pm (though there is no such thing as a “set time” with the MCs). I will drop in for the first group of people to pat the guys down to ensure they are not hiding weapons, drugs,or alcohol (though it is alcohol we are worried most about and find most often). The first group goes into the chapel to pray with the sisters. I go back, usually, to folding the clothes and prepping things for the shelter and, when done, help out in the soup kitchen. Things wrap up by 6pm and that is my day. This goes on for 6 days a week as the sisters spend Thursday as a day of prayer, so the kitchen and shelter are shut down. It is therefore my day off too.

That is a general outline of my day, let me now get into specifics. The people we serve are largely Navajo people who struggle with alcohol addiction. Very few Mexicans come through here. The area is also flanked with stray dogs. My walk to Mass in the morning is a daily act of faith, though sometimes I detour so as to avoid the stray doverman pincher. The sisters,however, are going to give me the use of one of their cars and this may alleviate the issue. I have faith in God, but the phobia sometimes just takes over too much and I can’t control it. So this has been a trial as I have found myself staying inside most of the time due to this save for my journey for Mass.

I watched over the shelter for two nights as the man (the child of God I spoke of earlier) went home to visit his mother. I am in there for around an hour in the evening. I have had some interesting conversations with some of the natives in these brief visits. Most have been to rehab many times. A couple told me they have been in rehab 11 times. The problem, they say, is that something about the 12 steps doesn’t click with the native way of thinking. They get drunk to run away from pain, anxiety, etc. They want to stop but can’t figure out how to. It’s sad to say the least.

I woke up this morning to find one of the guys staying in the shelter having a seizure. So called 911. That was tough. Apparently this is common for him. After I let everyone out, I saw three people sitting next to the soup kitchen entrance, already drunk at 6am and talked to them. There is great sorrow in their hearts. It can’t help but move you. Christ really is there.

Here are some other things that have occurred in no particular order:
-One morning we found a bed and pajamas with lice. They are nasty little things. You have to drown them in bleach because they survive in water. That was fun. I took a shower almost immediately after being done the morning shift.
-The accommodations are quite good, actually. There is lots of food to help myself to, though I try to supplement it with healthy things as most of the things the sisters get is either loaded with salt or just plain unhealthy. It is way better than I had expected re: a room and kitchen, etc.
-The sisters pray a lot while working. I am averaging 3 rosaries and at least one divine mercy chaplet a day all because some sister decides to start praying one while working. This on top of my usual prayer schedule. So lots of prayer, for which I am grateful.
-They usually close the kitchen and shelter on the first of the month because it is when many people get a cheaper or payment of some sort. But they didn’t this month. So most of the people were quite drunk this particular evening. This night sister asked me to preach on the gospel of the day. I had to figure out what to say and the Lord provided me with the words. You haven’t preached until you have preached to a crowd that is mostly completely plastered. Let’s just say that they don’t prepare you for these types of situations in preaching class! It was the gospel about the master and the slaves who are given talents to invest from Matthew 25. I was just about to start when the Lord gave me a direction to go that would deal with the circumstances of those I was preaching to. Who knows how it was received, but definitely a new preaching moment I have never had before.
-The sisters have no washing machine or dishwasher. They have a dryer only because they can’t hang dry the clothes during the winter months. So I wash my clothes by hand. It is a great joy. Manual labour does great things for the soul.
-I just found out that for the next three months I will be enjoying the company of a guest priest every week. I met the first priest on Sundays evening and he is a wonderful, joy filled, and holy priest. We talked for three hours on Sunday and we are looking forward to hanging out all week. Who gets the opportunity to meet priests from all over the US? God has been good and has loaded me with consolations and acts of divine providence.

What have I to say then after all this? There have been and I continue to have ups and downs, which is only natural in such a situation. I had expected to work with the people more and to, well, work more! I also thought I would have community with whom I would pray, eat, and work with. My days are about 6 hours of actual work plus my time of prayer. On Monday and Tuesday, we will have the kitchen and shelter closed to do some needed cleaning. I love all the manual labour, but had hoped to work more directly with people.

However, there have been positives. My days feel balanced and I feel I can just be myself. I love the manual labour. I realize I am preparing meals, cleaning floors, folding clothes, etc all for Jesus. He is the One Who comes to eat and sleep here. I am growing in reminding myself this with each small action and it starts to challenge my actions in other such as “I will eat this for Jesus” or “this drunk person I am hugging or who’s dirty hand I am shaking is Jesus”. It is amazing how this little thought can change so much in our heart so quickly. It changes the way we do things and we no longer begrudge it but rather embrace it with thanksgiving and joy. Mother Teresa was very emphatic on doing all with a smile, and thus to accept what has been given with joy as from the Lord. She is right. Indeed no justify it because in the times I have felt alone and rejected, it isn’t God punishing, but me refusing to accept the givenness of the reality and moment in front of me.

I think that is enough for now.

In Christ through Mary

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Just What Is The New Evangelization?

This is a question we have been dealing with quite extensively in my course on the very topic.  If we are the summarize it succinctly, we could simply call it as a preaching of the Gospel to Christians who have not yet had a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus.  The New Evangelization, then, is first and foremost ecclesio-centric: it focuses first and foremost on the Church and those who are already within her loving embrace.

By bringing the faithful to a real, living encounter with Jesus, it would follow with the Church’s missionary activity which, according to the Second Vatican Council, is the very purpose of the Church.  In theology and philosophy, the purpose of a thing is what defines it as what it is.  Thus, if the purpose of the Church is to be missionary, then she is missionary in her very nature.

That, in a nutshell, is what the New Evangelization is.  Yet, many people misunderstand or misconstrue the real essence of the New Evangelization and presuppose that the adjective “new” entails different methods of evangelization.  There is, therefore, many people who think that the New Evangelization is all about using what is ‘new’ in the world, especially in the realm of technology.  The proponents of such a view, when speaking of the New Evangelization, also in the same breath use words such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Mobile Communications, etc.

Such a mentality is blatantly contrary to the mission and purpose of the New Evangelization.  If one were to glance at the Lineamenta (the working document for the upcoming synod on the New Evangelization), one would read, under the section “Areas In Need of the New Evangelization, the following quote:

The fifth sector is scientific and technological research. We are living at a moment when people still marvel at the wonders resulting from continual advances in scientific and technological research. All of us experience the benefits of this progress in our daily lives, benefits on which we are becoming increasingly dependent. As a result, science and technology are in danger of becoming today’s new idols. In a digitalized and globalized world, science can easily be considered a new religion, to which we turn with questions concerning truth and meaning, even though we know that the responses provided are only partial and not totally satisfying. New forms of “gnosis” are emerging where technology itself becomes a kind of philosophy in which knowledge and meaning are derived from an unreal structuring of life. These new cults, increasing each day, ultimately end up by turning religious practice into a clinical form of seeking prosperity and instant gratification.

This is not much of a supportive mindset in regards to social media.  Nor is it, though, a condemnation of social media and technology in general.  Yet, it asks for a detailed reflection on the nature of technology, its positive and negative impacts, etc.  One must be cautious and discerning with all things.  We cannot presume that because it is new that it is good.  This is a danger of many in North America especially, where technology so influences every aspect of our lives.  The warning in regards to the idolatry of technology is a warning we in North America must especially heed.

Furthermore, the call to having a discerning mind in regards to technology is also a call to enter into these areas.  It is not because these areas are necessarily a good in themselves – they may in fact be harmful to our psychological development!  However, we are called to enter them because, increasingly, it is where people interact with each other.  Unfortunately, people depend less and less on personal encounter.  Even talking to people over the phone is becoming an increasingly foreign thing with the advent of text messaging.

We must imitate our Lord Who would go into places that were perhaps taboo, even engage in social interactions that were taboo (I am thinking especially the Samaritan woman).  We must go into these places not to use them as ends in themselves, but rather as places where we can bring the Light of Christ.  By encountering that light, things begin to seem to be as nothing in comparison with the gift of Christ to our lives.  In short, we enter them not to stay within them – we don’t get a twitter account in order to stay there and communicate there.  Rather, we enter there so that we can introduce others to the grace of Christ’s loving gaze that will draw them out of these areas.  If we believe – as many scientific studies have shown – that many technological advances have adverse psychological effects on us, then we ought to be doing what we can to help people come out of these spaces.  Yet, we can only do it by first going where they are going.

I can speak simply from personal experience.  Growing up – especially in high school – the computer was everything to me, so much so that I decided to study Computer Science at UVic so as to further engage in my passion.  I found Computer Science boring and uninteresting, but my obsession with the technological did not cease.  Yet, since my conversion, since my encounter with the face of Christ, I have been drawn to a Person Who is real – more real than any reality of this earth!  My purpose now is to act on that reality with greater devotion and conviction each and every day. Thus I finally gave up my Facebook account because I found that I was giving too much time to technology.  Now, frankly, because I don’t use Facebook, I am barely on my computer – though this is at times a detriment as I forget to answer e-mails and renew library books.

Yet, it still is a struggle, and I battle with this struggle daily.  I find myself continually enraptured by the latest technological advances.  It is not helpful, furthermore, when most people around you are buying the latest advances and so you see them being used.  I think there is something to this enrapturing quality of technology that is worthy of another post, but what I wish to say is that I still struggle, but I do see progress in my life.  Despite how cool I think having an iPad would be, of being on all these social networks – of ‘feeling’ connected, I am starting to learn that there is a Presence more important than anything else and that my yearning towards these innovations is simply my deeper yearning for Him.

In the end, then, our purpose in using social communication is not to use the means as an end in itself.  We must take seriously Marshall Mcluhan’s famous statement: “the medium is the message”.  This is not the statement of an optimist, but one who is discerning towards the reality of things.  The medium becomes confused as the message, thus obscuring the message.  We must be discerning and use these communications wisely, yet always demonstrating that, ultimately, our use of social communication is an expression of communicating in a social and real with an Other.

in Christ

-Harrison

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