The Power of We

Today is Blog Action Day, an annual worldwide event where bloggers write about a single topic, occuring each year on October 15 or 16th. Past themes have included the environment, poverty and climate change. The theme for this year is The Power of We.

The “Power of We” conveys a very simple truth: working together leads to the best results. It is a truth that operates at a lot of different levels:

First when we seek through our charitable efforts to help those who are marginalized and vulnerable, we can go more if we empower them and work with them than if we simply hand them aid. Working with, rather than giving to, is the way to accomlish aims that are more than temporary.

Second, if I am part of an organization, if I can get buy in from others for my plans for improvement or change, if I can involve others in my ideas, they are more likely to succeed – and I get the benefit of the creativity and talents of others.

Finally, and by no means least in importance, I am most strong when I acknowledge my need for God, when I decide to approach things with God rather than on my own. As the plaque on the wall on my study at home reminds me, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” On my own, I am small. When God, I walk with the strongest form of The Power of We.

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It’s About How, Not How Many

A Synod of Bishops on the “new evangelization” is now going on in Rome. The Synod is, not surprisingly, generating a lot of blog entries and media articles on the subject.

On of those on-line pieces that I read the other day spoke of the “doctrinal confusion,” which the author described this way: “Many of our fellow Catholics look at the world this way – that broad and wide is the road that leads to heaven, and almost everyone is going that way, but narrow is the way that leads to hell, and hardly anybody is going that way.” He continued, “Of course, that is hugely problematic, as it’s the exact opposite of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14: ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.'”

I think some people like to think that, in his reference to a narrow gate, Jesus meant that very few people will end up in heaven, and that most of us are on the road to perdition. Those who think that way generally also tend to think that the small number who will enter heaven consists of them and their friends and excludes the rest of us.

But I think today’s Gospel passage from Mark helps us to a better understanding of what Jesus meant in talking about the wide and narrow roads.

In today’s Gospel, when Jesus wants his disciples to understand “how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God,” he tells them that “[i]t is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the confused disciples ask, “Then who can be saved?”, Jesus replies, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

The narrow gate is not about numbers. It is not a suggestion that heaven is reserved for a few and that most will find their way to hell.

Rather, the narrow gate is about our need for God. The narrow gate is not about keeping large numbers of us out. It is about understanding that our salvation comes from God, for whom all thing are possible. We are not the author of our own salvation.

On the one hand, one can view our recognition of our need for God as a narrow gate. On the other hand, God is a gate big enough to handle all of us.

God Has An Answer For Everything

Sometimes things seem so hard for us. And when they do, excuses come easily to us. We can come up with all sorts of reasons why we can’t possible do whatever it is that God wants us to do.

But the truth is that whatever excuse we can dish up, God already has an answer for us.

When we say “I’m afraid,” Jesus says “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:10)…”I have not given you a spirit of fear. ” (2 Timothy 1:7)

When we say “I’m all alone,” Jesus says “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

When we say “It’s impossible,” Jesus says, “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” (Luke 18:27)

When we say I’m just too tired,” Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28

When we say “I don’t have the strength to go on,” God say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 9)

Go ahead – try to come up with more excuses. I’m willing to wager that no matter what we come up with, God has a response. So perhaps we ought to just drop the excuses and go on about our business – go on about God’s business.

Mutual Support

Mutual Support. This term has been in my thoughts at various times since our Law School graduation this past weekend, where it was used by the student chosen by the graduating class to speak on their behalf at the ceremony.

Tom, who had a career as both an Air Force and civilian pilot before coming to law school, spoke of his experience as a military pilot. One of the things he learned when he flew in formation, regardless of the size of the formation, was that each pilot had to be able to depend on the other. Each supported, and was supported by, the others and had to be able to count on that support. And that mutual support was necessary; no one could survive on his own without the others. Tom encouraged his colleagues to take that lesson to their own lives, talking about the need to be open both to depending on others in their own need and to being the necessary support for others who were in need.

Mutual support. Inter-dependence. An important concept. Many of us are far more comfortable with the idea of doing something for others than with allowing others to do something for us. Helping others is one thing, but me – I can do it all on my own. It takes some of us longer than others to realize the folly of that way of thinking and to learn that the support needs to go both ways. Real growth requires both that we be there for others and allow others to be there for us. I am grateful to Tom for raising the issue for his graduating class…and as a reminder for all of us.