Music and the Gospel: “Heart Wide Open,” Matt Brock

A rich young man seems eager to follow Jesus until Jesus suggests that he give his money to the poor and come along with him and his other disciples. Teens are the young people Jesus asks to follow him today. These years are the time each of us starts to imagine adult life and recognize that what we believe and how we act may differ from friends, family, or community. St. Kateri Takawitha’s courage and faith exemplifies what it means to find and choose one’s own path.

Key lines: I know you see me as I am / I’m met with kindness / That knows no end / You pull me closer / Oh, there is freedom all around / Here in your presence / My walls come down… / So I’m gonna worship / With my heart wide open

Questions: How do you respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow him? To what or who do you give service out of your wealth of energy? Who do you see in your area or parish that needs help? What are you willing to give in service to the less fortunate?

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Music and the Gospel: “In The Name Of Love,” Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha

It isn’t easy to see the poverty in our own backyards if we are not living in it. People living without what they need don’t want us to see what is happening. Most of us want to help if we do see others, especially young people our own age, in tough situations. We serve God when we serve our neighbors. Some people have the means to donate money; other people donate time and talents. This week’s SPIRIT explores service and ways to put our faith into action. The song “In The Name Of Love” is a powerful song about what it means to be called to a higher purpose or cause. It’s also a challenge to move us into action.

Key Lines: I wanna testify / Scream in the holy light / You bring me back to life / And it ’s all in the name of love

Questions: Where do you see people living in poverty in your community? What are some ways you can serve in your local community? When have you felt called to a higher purpose?

Music and the Gospel: “Set The World On Fire,” Britt Nicole

“Whoever among you wants to be first must serve the needs of all.  The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.”  This Sunday’s Spirit focuses on service.  By sustaining the Empty Bowls project and donating the proceeds to Heifer International (which then provides a means for helping people become more self-sufficient), the students at Cretin Durham are participating in a project that keeps giving.  They’ve taken to heart and put into action Jesus’ call to help people in need, both their neighbors and the community at large.

Key lines: I wanna feed the hungry children / And reach across the farthest land / And tell the broken there is healing / And mercy in the Father’s hands

Questions: What is a service project you would like to become more involved in or start in your community or school?  What has past experience working on a service project taught you?  How did it change your perspective?

Radical?

In this week’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus stands up to read at the synagogue on the Sabbath. He unrolls the scroll of the book of the prophet Isaiah that is handed to him and proceeds to read this passage: “The Spirit of the Holy One is upon me; therefore, God has anointed me and sent me to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty for captives, sight to the blind, release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from God.” With all eyes upon him, Jesus announces, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus is making it clear that he is the anointed one of God, the one who ushers in God’s kingdom in which the poor will receive good news, the captives will be freed, the blind will see, and all will experience the favor of God.

As I read this passage and thought about how it applies to my life, my first inclination was to spiritualize it. Since I do not encounter too many actual poor people or actual captives or actual blind people, I wanted to think about it more metaphorically. Who are the poor in spirit in my life to whom I can proclaim good news? Who are those who are held spiritually captive by challenges they face either from within or outside of themselves and what can I do to help free them? Who are those who are spiritually blind and how might I walk with them toward sight on their spiritual journeys?

Annunciation House Soccer Game of Guests and Volunteers.

Annunciation House Soccer Game of Guests and Volunteers.

But then I read this week’s Spirit magazine article by Cindy Schlosser, who gave two and a half years of her life to live and volunteer at Annunciation House, a home for immigrants and refugees in El Paso, Texas. I also thought of my own sister. After college, she spent a year living in intentional community with other volunteers while working at a shelter for homeless women and their children. A few years later, she spent another year in a poor village in Uruguay, serving the community in multiple ways, from teaching English at the local elementary school to offering yoga classes to doing odd jobs at the church. Cindy and my sister are just two examples of people who have not spiritualized Jesus’ call to his disciples to do the work of justice. Both of them have made radical commitments to serve those who are most marginalized in our society and to advocate for those who are actually, materially poor and actually captive to social systems that keep them in poverty.

And then I think about myself, and I feel a discomfort that I always feel when I encounter the stories of those who live a radical commitment to justice in their lives. It is a discomfort that I try to ignore and try to rationalize away by thinking about all the things I do already to live as a disciple of Christ. What makes me uncomfortable is that I have this sense that God is calling me to be more radical. I have a sense that there is something more that I should be or could be doing.

At times like these, I am reminded of a prayer that is attributed to Saint Augustine: “Dear God, please make me good, just not yet.” Augustine famously struggled with the passions of the flesh and the joys of the world. Like many of us, he enjoyed things that he knew were not good for him, and he wanted to be freed from his desire for these things … just not yet. My version of the prayer goes like this: “Dear God, please make me a radical instrument for your peace and justice, just not yet.” Even though I feel bad, it is the best I can muster for now.

How do you feel or react when you hear stories about people who have made radical commitments to doing God’s work for justice in the world?

To what do you feel God is calling you? How can you proclaim good news to the poor, liberty for captives, sight to the blind, and release to prisoners in your life?

What prayers do you make to God about how you hope God will shape you to be an instrument of God’s justice and peace?

Current Music and the Gospel: “I Found You,” Alabama Shakes

“I Found You,” Alabama Shakes, Boys and Girls, Rough Trade Records

Gospel Reflection for October 21st, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time: St. Francis of Assisi is often quotes as saying, “Preach the gospel at all times; use words when necessary.” Instead of displays of power, Jesus tells his disciples that service to one another is what shows that they are his followers. “I Found You” talks about how God works through the compassion of people.

Key Lines: If I’m gonna love you with all of my heart/and if there is no more time/this always remains/even as the world spins itself apart/’cause I remember them days I waited so patiently/for God to bring someone who’s gonna be good to me/and then he blessed my soul

Questions: Who are examples of those who serve in your church or community? What qualities do they possess? How does serving others show that you are a follower of Jesus? What was a time someone helped or served you? How did it make you feel? Why do you think Jesus prefers service to others to earthly power?

“Sing” – SPIRIT Xtra for November 20, Feast of Christ the King

“Sing,” My Chemical Romance, Sing – The Deluxe Single, Reprise Records

Gospel Reflection: In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus reveals that we will find him when we care for those in need, the ones he calls “the least of these.” He challenges us to live out our faith through helping others.  “Sing” encourages us to use our voices for services to others.

Key Lines: Sing it from the heart/Sing it till you’re nuts/Singing out for the ones that’ll hate your guts/Sing it for the deaf/Sing it for the blind/Sing about everyone that you left behind/Sing it for the world, sing it for the world

Questions: How can you use your voice for “the least of these?” What risks do you take when you speak out? Where do you see Jesus present in your community? How is doing an act of charity an expression of faith? What opportunities for service does your church or school provide? How can you get more involved?

adapted from SPIRIT Xtra for Teens 2011-2012 by Johanna Hatch