Column By Jonathan Nagy
“Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” – Mark 1:17
I am sure we have all received flyers, invitations, social media posts, and emails inviting us to events. Often, there are incentives for attending meetings, whether it be free donuts, coupons to stores, or special “members-only” benefits. We are asked to complete surveys and, by doing so, are provided with a gift card. Then there are invites that we receive that do not seem to hold any benefit for our attendance. So why do we go? Do we have a fear of missing out? Do we do it out of peer pressure? Do we achieve some sort of intrinsic reward? Whatever the reason might be, many still answer the invitation. So why, with all of the benefits included, would someone not want to answer Jesus’ call to His Church?
We just celebrated the great feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. The Apostles were on fire for Christ and His message and became determined to spread The Word far and near for all to become one with God. They all knew the mortal risks of teaching the Gospel, and yet, despite everything, did it without hesitation. They believed in what Jesus taught them and wanted to invite everyone to be part of the start of something wonderful. And to think that what we have today was created by so few individuals who were true believers of the Lord!
Now, fast forward to the American colonies in the late 1700s. Relations with England were rocky, and many in America were agitated with the treatment they received from the government. Even though they voiced their displeasures, most were unwilling to do anything further about the situation. This hesitation occurred for many reasons, including the thinking that they were too small to matter, nothing would ever change, or even worse, the fear of death if they would stand up for their beliefs. Again, just like the Apostles, a small group of people stood up for what they believed in and helped to create a new country, founded on the natural rights passed on from God.
There are many other examples from history that I could use to illustrate my point of individuals who have stood up against all odds and have done marvelous things. Despite knowing the difficulties and dangers that faced them, they were willing to say, “Count me in!”, and their actions inspired others to join in their causes. Many were inspired by the possibility of what could be. We are presented with that invitation today to become more fully involved in The Church. And with the benefits that are promised by God, I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to be part of it!
The refrain to the Christian song Church, by Cochren and Company, reads as follows: “Take me back to the place that feels like home, to the people I can depend on, to the faith that’s in my bones. Take me back to a preacher and a verse, where they’ve seen me at my worst, to the love I had at first, oh, I want to go to church!” Those are just a few of the reasons why we all should be running through the doors, not out of them. Everyone is always welcome in our church. People sometimes forget that Jesus was a man with middle eastern features, was poor, outcast, dirty, and hung around the society’s least desirable crowd. He demonstrated to us, with his own humanity, that we are all welcome as children of God.
Our Catholic schools also offer so many benefits to students and families that they should be full to their capacities. The schools provide a full education, with a spiritual aspect. Remember in the nursery rhyme that Mary’s lamb was not allowed in school? Well, Mary is allowed and encouraged to take THE LAMB (of God) to Catholic school every day. The faith foundations created there are long-lasting and profound. Just like the Church as a whole, the environment is welcoming and caring. Understandably so, a Catholic education can be a sacrifice for many families. But, more often than not, the most difficult sacrifices and challenges produce the most rewarding results.
As he ascended into Heaven, Jesus said to his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus commanded all of us to spread the Good News to all, inviting them to the message of God, and the Church that he created is amazing. Jesus also said in Matthew 12:25, “A house divided against itself will not stand.” Let us all stand together in His house. Let us carry out the message. Let us invite others to join us.
There are far more benefits to belonging and involving ourselves in our Church and our schools than I could possibly ever list here. My hope is that everyone takes the time to become more deeply connected with our parishes and our schools and work to fulfill God’s mission for all of us here on earth. If you commit to one additional task, one committee, one extra service, or even one act of Christian service, the benefits you will receive from joining are far greater than any donut, coupon, or gift card. Everyone is invited to become closer to Jesus. Extend that invite to others and demonstrate how they can be counted in as well!
Jonathan Nagy is the Director of Admissions and Social Studies teacher at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg. He is also the Director of Music at the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.