DISCIPLES OF THE 21st CENTURY
This past New Year's Eve was a "once in a Millennium experience." Every television station followed the events around the world as the earth family celebrated the beginning of the new Millennium. There was much talk about looking back over the last century, and indeed the last one thousand years. Even more focus was placed on what lie ahead, in the new millennium, and specifically, in the 21st century.
The projections for the future are mixed. On one hand science promises cures for diseases that have plagued humanity for eons. Yet science also holds the specter of "harvesting" human cells, and even body parts form aborted children. Technology moves ahead at an eye-blinking pace, yet the possibility of the destruction of the human race from our own technology looms as an ever real possibility. While some programs seem to succeed in bringing differing peoples to a negotiation table, wars and human slaughter seem to rage unabated. As in The tale of two cities, the third millennium may prove to be "the best of times and the worst of times"
Even within the Church itself, there seems to be different focuses about the future. Some see on the horizon a great area for Christianity, a season of new missionary zeal, and a life of holiness lived among the believers. Others warn of chastisement, punishment, and persecution.
I suspect that both of these projections are accurate. We may well experience a new springtime of Christianity, but it may come in the throes of some very difficult times on the face of the earth.
Whether one tends to be optimistic about the future or concerned for the days ahead, we must face tomorrow as the disciples of Jesus.
If Christ is our rock, then we are secure, in good times or bad. We must cling to Him that we may not be swayed by whatever takes place around us. Our hearts must be rooted in Christ, so that we will not be torn up by the winds of change that surely will blow across the earth.
There are many ways that we need to live as disciples in Christ, but I would like to focus on three: Relationships, vision, and being connected to Christ.
Relationships: For all of our new technology, that allows us to be connected, social scientists refer to people living in America as the "loneliest people in the world". Our fast pace life often has people putting aside time for family and friends. Family traditions are sacrificed and abandoned because nobody has time any more. People living in the same house often don't even relate to one another. In an ironic turn, I met a guy who spent the entire day in his room "connecting" with people on the Internet....yet never spent time with the folks who lived under the same roof with him!
Jesus commanded us to love one another. He said that the way we treated each other was a sign that The Lord was with us. I believe that, as Christians, we are going to have to make the tough decision to put relationships back up at the top of our priorities. The lonely world is looking for a place to find comfort and love. It would be as disgrace if they looked for it among the followers of Christ...and went away empty. As Christians, we need to both proclaim and model the love of God. Let us pay more attention to how we relate to others. It may be the witness that will cause someone to believe in The Christ when they look at us and exclaim "see how they love one another!"
Vision: The world is excellent at spinning dreams. By watching commercials, we get the impression that if I buy a certain car, go to a certain holiday destination, or wear a particular type of clothing, then our entire lives will be fine. Illusions! Many musicians and even media stars would seem to demonstrate that living a wild life is the only way to happiness. Deceptions! Unfortunately, many people are succumbing to the "visions" of these false prophets and are losing their way.
As God's people, we must live by the vision The Lord has given us. We must know who we are, what we are about, and why we do the things we do. The saying "stand for something or you'll fall for anything" reminds us how easy it is to be pulled off track. We must keep our eyes fixed on Christ that we may find salvation. As disciples of The Master, we must do everything within our power to share this vision with others. Perhaps our witness, our proclamation will aid someone else in finding their way back home to The Lord.
Being Connected to Christ: There is no way that we will endure the days ahead without being close to Our Lord. If good times are ahead and we all live in abundance...we may forget The Lord and go astray. If bad times are coming and we become discouraged...we may also forget our God. Whether there are good times or bad...we must be in Christ!
Time in prayer is essential. We also will draw close to God through His Sacred Word. Being in community with other believers will strengthen our relationship with God. Reception of the sacraments are essential for drawing close to The Lord.
I am not suggesting that this is always easy or convenient...but it is doable, if we cry out to God for help. The time we spend drawing closer to The Lord is a sound investment in our future..eternity. Use the time you have remaining on this earth to draw close to God!
If we pay attention to these three areas of our life, we will be ready for whatever lies ahead. We will face the future the same way we lived in the past....rooted in Christ.
Have a wonderful Millennium.
James Murphy is president and founder of Vera Cruz Communications. He is the former chairman of, and currently an advisor to the National Service Committee if the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. He currently serves on the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, with offices in Rome. For more information check out his web site at http://www.veracruzcm.com .