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Mission to Europe -“Athirst for God”

Tucked in a picturesque valley in Romania, was a family summer camp.  Our mission team was there to serve at a young adult retreat sponsored by the local diocese.  When my roommate, Paul, and I were ushered to a modest cabin, I opened the rear window and was pleasantly surprised by a lovely, running stream in our backyard.  The Psalm came to mind;

  “As the deer longs for running waters, so is my soul athirst for God.”     -Psalm 42:2

"My soul thirsts for God"
“My soul thirsts for God

When I awoke the next morning and started Morning Prayer in my Magnificat issue, I was greeted by a “hello from heaven.”  There on the page… was Psalm 42. 

“Okay, Lord,” I prayed, “I do get the message.”

For the previous nine days, my fellow team members and I had been engaged in an exciting outreach to various Catholic communities, schools and prayer groups.  Our leader, Tom Edwards, a full-time lay evangelist who has traveled the world teaching, exhorting and encouraging others with fine Biblical teachings, had given such powerful messages as “Faith That Overcomes Obstacles,” and “Finding Our Father.”

Tom with Slovak Interpreter
Tom with our Slovak Interpreter, Jarka; His challenge to the high school students?  To choose Jesus and the Gospel

His wife, Jean, taught -and bore witness- to the “Gospel of Life,” using realistic fetal models to engage the imagination of both students and teachers in three Slovakian Catholic high schools.

A teacher examines a fetal model
A teacher carefully examines a fetal model

Maureen and Paul had given their testimonies, and like me, were available for personal prayer for others.  This kind of ministry bore fruit in ways that only God truly knows, but which we could at times, see with our own eyes. 

Lastly, I performed “A Visit with St. Paul” for five different audiences, four of which were young people.

Proclaiming the Word
Proclaiming the Word at a Catholic high school

In 2011 and 2012, I performed twenty times as St. Paul in China.  This, however, was the first time I had the same opportunity in Slovakia and Romania.  What a joy and a privilege it is to present the life and legacy of the Great Apostle!  After each performance, students asked questions about St. Paul.  One college student, Gabro, in flawless English asked me for permission to use my script.  He wants to replicate the drama for his various apostolates.  With glee, not only did I give him permission, but I also gave him my script and a DVD of the studio version of “Visit.” 

I pray earnestly for Gabro, asking the Holy Spirit to help him evangelize and catechize his peers through this use of drama– an excellent example of the “new evangelization.”

I also had the opportunity to teach while on mission.  In Presov, Slovakia, at a day of renewal for the community leaders of Maranatha Catholic Community, I spoke of the joy of the Resurrection.  I cited passages from both Luke Chapter 24, and St. Paul’s beautiful “Letter of Joy,” otherwise known as Philippians.

The John Paul Community Center
The John Paul Community Center – Presov, Slovakia

As you can see, this dynamic community of faith meets in a place that commemorates St. John Paul.  At night, a spotlight installed by the city government shines on his statue.  No ‘separation of church and state’ issues bother the people of Presov!

I also taught in Poprad, Slovakia, at a gathering of priests, students, and professors from the local Catholic University.   My subject was Romans 8:14-17.   As a complement to the performance I had given the day before, I centered the teaching on…

IMG_2701

“We have not been given a spirit of fear leading us back into slavery, but rather a spirit of adoption, through which we cry out  ‘Abba, Father!'”  -Romans 8:15

This is what Jarka (the interpreter pictured above) had to say;

“Day Two started with a talk given by Glenn Smith. He encouraged us to cry out to our Lord with great joy and say “Abba, Father.’“

And thus I circle back to my opening remarks.  When I think of all the blessings of this mission, the one that stands out the most is the prompting given by the Spirit in Romania.  Through Psalm 42, the prayer of a soul crying out for union for God, I was reminded -I am reminded- that I too, am a soul seeking union with Abba, Father.

Indeed, this is the invitation we all have been given by Jesus.  The Mass readings from these last weeks of the Easter Season have been focused on this very invitation to intimacy with our God. 

As the great Feast of Pentecost approaches, all of us can invoke the abundant graces of the Holy Spirit.  Our Amazing God presents us once again with the opportunity to be renewed, refreshed and empowered  by the Great Paraclete...

COME HOLY SPIRIT AND SATISFY OUR THIRST FOR GOD!

P.S.  If you are interested in learning more about the foreign missions sponsored by Renewal Ministries, please go to the link.

My Letter to Billy Graham

This letter will have to be mailed “Special Delivery.”

Dear Mr. Graham,

I never knew you personally, and indeed, I never met you while you were in the world, but I thought it was a good time to write.  If you are where I think you are, you’ll be able to read this.

Congratulations on receiving your eternal reward!  I know that I’m assuming this is true, but it’s reasonable to do so.  After all, it was you who once said;

“I look forward to meeting God, face to face.”

That might seem presumptuous at first glance, but in another interview you added this important qualification;

“Well, I’m going to heaven not on my good works or because I’ve preached to all these people or read the Bible.  I’m going to heaven because of what Christ did on the cross.”

I wonder how many of my fellow Catholics. or other Christians, believe as you did, Billy?  To some, your statement might seem over-confident or simply wrong.  Yet, every time I perform a  “A Visit with St. Paul,” I proclaim what the Great Apostle himself wrote;

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God.  It is not from works, so no one may boast.”   –Ephesians 2:8-9

Rejoicing in the Lord (Phil.4:4)   and in the Gospel
Rejoicing in the Lord (Phil.4:4) and in the Gospel

 

Billy, some people might have a problem with what you evangelicals call a “saving faith.”  And that’s a shame.  It is the Gospel for which Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead, and woe to us if we spurn so great a salvation!

I write to you now, Billy, to thank you for not spurning the Gospel of Jesus.  St. Paul suffered much, and ultimately died for a similar proclamation of the Gospel.  It’s Paul’s consistent message which supplied some of your most powerful preaching.  Thus, I suspect that one of the first to greet you in heaven, was that former persecutor of Christians who met Jesus on the road to Damascus.

I didn’t always appreciate your work, Mr. Graham, while you were with us.  Many years ago, your name came up in conversation and a pastor with whom I was serving at the time, said,

” Billy Graham is doing God’s work.”

I was surprised.. pleasantly.  I expected criticism from a Catholic priest, and instead, heard the opposite.  It helped me to re-examine just who you were and what your ministry was.

Here’s another testimony; my wife, Maeve, was a young adult and growing in faith during her days as a missionary in Bolivia.  At that time, she read your book, “Living with Christ,” and it moved her deeply.  For her, this was a turning point in her walk with Jesus.

Many  Christians have derived help from your writing and your preaching.   Maybe someone reading this ‘letter’ will look up one of your books, or go to YouTube and find inspiration in your words.  All they need do is click on the words in green.

I ask  for your prayers, Billy.  We Catholics believe that those in heaven can pray for us, and indeed, we acknowledge a whole body of men and women recognized as “saints.”  Since you are now in all likelihood among that number, then I have no hesitation in requesting your intercession.  Please pray for us who profess to be Christian, that we may have the courage to proclaim the Gospel…with our mouths.  Yes, our actions count for something. But actions alone will not be an effective witness for Christ, if we never speak up and tell others just what it is we believe.  This is what St. Paul did.

 

"Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!"
“Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!”   –1 Corinthians 9:16

 

Billy, there is no mistaking one fact;

You preached the Gospel. 

Lives were changed.  Jesus entered the hearts of those who responded “yes” to your proclamation of the Gospel.  Thus, our world is a better place for your faithfulness to the call of the Lord.

Thanks, Billy!

-Glenn..

…who by my faith in Christ and His infinite mercy, will see you later.