Seek the max, not the minimum

“Don’t settle for the minimum” was Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.’s message to the folks who attended the recent Women and Men’s Conference at Stonehill College (please see the coverage beginning on page four). “We are called to greater things,” he preached. “We are called to transformation of ourselves, of our parishes, of our diocese, of our world. If you don’t believe that, why are you here?”

Paraphrasing Jesus’ challenges to the Apostles (“You have heard it said. But I say to you.”), the bishop said that God’s message to us is, “What I am asking you to do is more than the minimum because you can do more.” Then, addressing our current situation, he said, “If someone says to you we can just keep doing the same things we did 100 years ago or 50 years ago,” they are wrong. 

“Don’t allow anyone to say to you that things should remain as they are. How different our world, our parishes, our towns would be if we took the words of Jesus seriously. They are difficult words, but who said it was easy to be a disciple, a Christian, a saint?” Bishop da Cunha asked.

He then discussed suffering and the “why me?” approach we often have towards it. “No one is prepared to face suffering until they discover the good it does to us. It makes us more in communion with Jesus because He says, ‘Take up your cross.’”

Referring back to Jesus’ time, the bishop noted that people “were used to [doing] the minimum” (This also sounds like what the three children of Fatima were used to doing before Our Lady explained to them how they should pray the Rosary with devotion, as you can read on the next page). “Jesus said, ‘Oh, no, no, no. You’re missing a lot.’”

Besides offering a challenge, the bishop also said, “As we go back [home] after this day I hope that you will feel encouraged, hopeful, that the Church is alive, that it is relevant, that it is not a dying institution, that it is here to guide us.”

To stop settling for the minimum, we need “to see as God sees.” Doing so will “set this diocese on fire. Remember, if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Let us change our small vision, the vision of the minimum, to a vision of abundance,” the bishop concluded.

Many of us remember when a store around here advertised getting “the max for the minimum.” That might be OK when shopping, but in the Spiritual life we need to make more of an investment to make a good return. Fortunately, God always is offering us all the resources we need to make that happen. We just need to respond when He knocks at the door of our hearts (Rev 3:20).

The Vatican released this week Pope Francis’ message for World Youth Day, which is supposed to be observed locally on Palm Sunday in those years when there is not an international gathering of youth. He wrote, “Our age does not need young people who are ‘couch potatoes.’ According to Luke’s Gospel, once Mary has received the message of the angel and said ‘yes’ to the call to become the mother of the Savior, she sets out in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was in the sixth month of her pregnancy (cf. 1:36, 39). Mary does not shut herself up at home or let herself be paralyzed by fear or pride. Mary is not the type that, to be comfortable, needs a good sofa where she can feel safe and sound. She is no couch potato! If her elderly cousin needs a hand, she does not hesitate, but immediately sets off.

“It was a long way to the house of Elizabeth, about 150 kilometers. But the young woman from Nazareth, led by the Holy Spirit, knows no obstacles. Surely, those days of journeying helped her to meditate on the marvelous event of which she was a part. So it is with us, whenever we set out on pilgrimage. Along the way, the events of our own lives come to mind, we learn to appreciate their meaning and we discern our vocation, which then becomes clear in the encounter with God and in service to others.” What the pope wrote is true for all of us, regardless of our age.

After discussing Mary’s prayer of the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55), the pope offers a hopeful challenge similar to the one Bishop da Cunha offered at Stonehill: “When God touches the heart of a young man or woman, they become capable of doing tremendous things. The ‘great things’ that the Almighty accomplished in the life of Mary speak also to our own journey in life, which is not a meaningless meandering, but a pilgrimage that, for all its uncertainties and sufferings, can find its fulfillment in God. You may say to me: ‘But Father, I have my limits, I am a sinner, what can I do?’ When the Lord calls us, He doesn’t stop at what we are or what we have done. On the contrary, at the very moment that He calls us, He is looking ahead to everything we can do, all the love we are capable of giving. Like the young Mary, you can allow your life to become a means for making the world a better place. Jesus is calling you to leave your mark in life, your mark on history, your own and that of so many others.”

May our prayer lead us to do the great, new things that God desires for us as individuals and as a community.   

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts