Folks, we had another REALLY GOOD Life Night last night. Core Team member, Ruben, put it all together. After an intense game of what can best be described as "team dodge ball," he shared some of his testimony, and I'm happy to be able to share it with you.
When I was growing up, there were a lot of people in my life who hounded me to stay true to the Catholic faith. "Go to church! Read your bible! Don’t do bad things! You’ll go to hell if you don’t go to confession," they would say. I understood all that, and they weren’t wrong, but it seemed like a very negative way to look at religion. They never talked about the love and forgiveness of God. They seemed to condemn others who don’t follow the church. They seemed more afraid of going to hell than interested in having a relationship with God. It felt like they were following the church because they felt obligated to, not because they truly wanted to. For a long time, I considered these people to be “hardcore Christians.” I developed the notion that this is what Christian religion was supposed to be: restrictive, judgmental, and God-fearing. God-fearing; I don’t like that term. It’s a very archaic way of looking at God. The way I see it, there are two kinds of Christians in the world: Those who fear God and Those who love God. I want to be in the latter.
When I started coming to LIFE TEEN, everything I knew about the Catholic faith was turned upside-down. There were people from so many walks of life: different races, different social classes, different relationships with God. I felt so out of place, and yet I felt so accepted. There were people who were clearly much farther along in their faith than I was, and I was so intimidated by them, because I thought they were better than me. But they didn’t. They treated me as their equal, and they gave me the support I needed to grow in my faith.
Jesus taught people that sometimes the written law wasn’t always right. God could have picked a million ways to save us. He could have snapped his fingers at any moment and said, “Okay, it’s all good, son.” He could have told Adam to crush the serpent’s head, and called it even, but He chose a different route. He decided to teach us. He sent us His only son to teach us how to live our lives, to tell that maybe we should all be nice to one another, and to die for us, for each one of us individually. The whole concept behind Christianity, not just Catholicism, is to spread the good news to the world, especially to people who would never know otherwise. Not just through words, but through our actions too. You don’t necessarily have to convert them, but just show them that God is here. He lives in your actions,and in the way you treat people. Everything you do, you do in the name of God. God lives in the hearts of all of us.
Why do you go to church? Is it because your parents make you? Is it because that’s what you’ve always done? Is it because you’re afraid that bad things happen to you if you don’t? Who is the MVP in your life? Is it God? Is it something else? Is it you? If the answer is anything other than God, then you’re just going through the motions. When I was a kid, my father used to tell me, "You are receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, our Savior. You are receiving one of the greatest blessings of the universe, and you treat it like it’s just a cracker."
Jesus does not only live in the church. He lives in how you treat people on a day-to-day basis. There are a lot of problems in our world, but I feel like we can fix them all if maybe we look at it from another angle; from the inside out. One of our biggest mistakes is judging things that other people do wrong, when what we should really be doing is figuring out how to improve ourselves, and in the process, get closer to God. Stop thinking about how you can fix things on the outside. Think about the things that can help you be the best "you" you can be, and love one another just as God loves us. That is Christianity.
Ruben Castillo for Divine Mercy LIFE TEEN on October 4, 2015.
Ryan began using his gifts for the church shortly after high school starting with music ministry at his parish and then on to campus ministry at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has since also served as a parish youth minister and Coordinator of Adolescent Formation. Ryan shares the good news of the gospel hoping to compassionately inspire a response to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him and "become fishers of men." Ryan currently serves as full time Youth Minister here at Divine Mercy Parish.