Mercy Mondays

Discipleship: A Relationship of Mercy

By Deacon Keith Strohm | Monday, April 04, 2016

Just recently, I decided to return to the gym after years of doing pretty much nothing at all, in a physical sense.

The reality is that coming out of a sedentary lifestyle is harder than it looks. Even though I've been careful not to start too intensely, I essentially look and sound like a beached whale trying to roll itself back to the sea! Not only that, but I've discovered that I still make countless diet and activity choices that favor the sedentary, over-eating lifestyle over healthier alternatives.

In fact, coming out of a sedentary lifestyle takes a great deal of discipline, a change not only in actions, but in thought processes, including how you interpret data about your body. What was once considered “bad” and to be avoided, must now be embraced. The experience of running when your “wind is blown” and your legs are tired doesn't signal the end of the journey, but the beginning of real transformation. Entering in to that experience, rather than immediately slamming on the brakes, takes courage and trust in the process.

In short, leaving the deeply sedentary lifestyle requires a worldview shift, one that would not be possible without the support of family and friends, and without an intentional plan of attack.

Perhaps you see where I'm going with this?

Facilitating a Worldview Shift

Honestly, looking at the far side of my journey into health is daunting. Even though I once worked out regularly and ran 6-8 miles every 3 days, it seems crazy and impossible.

For most people, the spiritual journey toward Christ can feel exactly like that. Instead of shedding pounds, they have to shed the burden of a negative self-image, or an overwhelming feeling of anxiety or shame. They may have to re-evaluate their self-worth in Christ. Even more basic, some must struggle to shift their pattern of thinking, their entire personal philosophy, to embrace the reality of a universe with a Creator. And then, they must deal with the shocking reality that this Creator actually created them for love. Being a disciple of Jesus means living out an experience of the mercy of God and being a channel of that mercy to others. That requires a worldview shift for many people.

While God's grace will lead them and carry them forward--we cannot just assume that people will figure things out, accept reality and open their hearts to Christ on their own. Our current situation in the Catholic Church should be proof enough.

No, we must embrace the fact that we are called to be channels of that very grace which God pours out on others. In our willingness to walk with people through this journey, we incarnate the love of God, becoming, in a certain sense, a kind of sacrament for them. This is the very model Jesus gave us--replication! He spent three years replicating Himself in 12 men, and they spent the rest of their lives replicating Jesus in those they meet.

But how do we do this as individuals and as parish communities? The Office for the New Evangelization is offering an event that will help parishes share the mercy and love of Jesus with others. It’s called Evangelization Expo.  It will take place on Tuesday, April 12, at the Cardinal Meyer Center.  The Expo is open to anyone involved or interested in strengthening their parish evangelization efforts.  Examples of successful, local evangelization efforts will be highlighted, as will practical ideas that can be used in a variety of parish settings.  We are offering three sessions, one in Spanish, and you can find out more by visiting: EvangelizeChicago.org/events/expo.

Mercy Challenge

In order to share the mercy we have found in Jesus, we must eventually talk to others about Him. This week, take some time to share with another person one thing about your life that is different because you have encountered Jesus.

Deacon Keith Strohm is the director of the Office for the New Evangelization.