Behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way…Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.”
The rule is simple: “If the world persecuted me, then it will persecute you. If they hated me, then they will hate you.” This year, over one hundred Christian missionaries were killed because they preached the love of Jesus Christ. This is the rule. They accepted it. They lived and died by it.
Yesterday evening I drove over two hours through a horrible thunderstorm to get to a retreat. I was supposed to hear confessions. I didn’t hear a single one! I was very upset. It was the result of a misunderstanding. This evening, one of the counselors sent me a message telling me that nine out of the twelve kids on that retreat said I was their inspiration! I couldn’t believe it. I felt horrible. Whatever graces I could have won I lost due to my anger! I forgot the rule: “It is better to give than to receive, for when you give, you receive.”
“Demas, enamored of the present world, deserted me…only Luke is with me. Alexander did me a great deal of harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them!” If I could only write and believe like St. Paul! I would have been the first to have cursed them to Hell! Instead, St. Paul declares, “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength…”
Today, I celebrated Mass for a High School football team. I told them, “Your coaches, regardless of what sport you play, will demand two important things from you. The first is that you learn how to play by the rules. The second is that you trust in them.”
In this aspect, sports reflect life, and God is the coach. We all need to learn the rules of life and trust in the one who put them.
If you wish to be an apostle, an evangelist, a disciple of the Lord, then you must follow the rules and take no money bag, no sack and no sandals. You must live the life of a simple man, a humble soul, a loving giver and forgiver. The Lord demands trust – unconditional trust. Only in this way, will you be able to see the hand of God in all your endeavors! Only in this way will you reveal who you are, and when you reveal who you are, hopefully you will reveal Jesus Christ!
I asked my teenage audience, “What are the rules for all teenagers?” The answer is obvious: No alcohol, no drugs and no sex. These are the rules that keep us in check and propel us to success, happiness and fulfillment. If I break these rules, what will happen? We already know. It’s no mystery. I will end up either dead or close to it. I will lose my smile, my innocence, my radiance and my transparency. I will lose my sense of self-worth. I will forget where my dignity and unique identity come from. I will become just another statistic and be known by another name! I will be called a druggie, a drunk, a…you know what!
What are the rules of married couples? No infidelity, no conditional love, no separation till death. If I don’t live by the rules, then how in the world will I ever experience the miracles of the Lord?
Allow yourself to be tested. Allow yourself to believe wholeheartedly. Allow yourself to be stripped of everything except faith, hope and love. See what happens next. Will you be kicked around? Probably. Will you be taken for granted? Most likely. But then I guarantee you, you will be considered a friend of the Lord, and we know the Lord makes known His friends.
If we play by Christ’s rules, we will end up seeing Christ’s miracles.