These are notes from one of the best talks I have ever heard in my life. It was given by Brett Powell, at a CCO conference in December 2001. I came across an old notebook a few weeks ago and found it, and it is as convicting to me today as it was when I heard it ten years ago (maybe more). Enjoy!
You know the kind of person who goes to a conference, and gets really on fire for Jesus? Who is so convicted, they can’t wait to get home and tell everyone what they have seen and heard? When they get back to the routine of life, maybe they start off pretty good – going to mass regularly, praying every day, receiving the sacraments. But then as time goes on, they start to lose their fire. Prayer and sacraments become a little less important. They no longer feel the same passion, and they start to get lazy in their faith. I know this person well, because I have been there many times. When you live conference to conference, and do not have any other spiritual life, you have what is known as Spiritual Apathy.
Spiritual Apathy is a condition of the heart that is characterized by indifference and inactivity. It is when your obedience is not equal to your knowledge; in other words, when your knowledge of the faith is greater than your obedience to it. It is when we know that Jesus is the Saviour of the world, but we do little to make Him known to others.
Apathy is a serious threat to the spread of the Gospel. More so than nonbelievers or persecutors, those who say they believe in God and do not act accordingly turn people away. Why? Because your life is a witness. Once you’ve made a public decision for Jesus, you have said to the world, “I am a Christian”, and they will judge you based on that. They will judge what you do, not just what you say (be careful to make them the same). They may also judge Christianity, especially if you are acting with hypocrisy (or appear to be).
Your life is a witness. The question is what are you witnessing to?
Don’t get depressed if this sounds like you. I guarantee that we have all been there at one point or another in our walk with Jesus. Remember that God encourages, Satan discourages. As you listen, remember the words that follow are not meant to discourage you, but to call you to action and encourage you to live as Jesus calls us to.
Why does Apathy affect so many of us?
An epidemic is dangerous because it is a disease that spreads rapidly and infects many. Apathy is the world’s greatest spiritual epidemic. Why?
- Because of the influence of the world around usThe world evangelizes us in its ways. Because of that, we try to isolate our faith (to survive). Sharing our faith leads to confrontation, so we often shy away from it (because it is difficult or uncomfortable to do so). This is the opposite of what we should be doing! As St. Francis said, “sanctify yourself, and you will sanctify society.”
- Because we have lost a sense of the importance of evangelizationRalph Martin says the world tries to convince us that wide is the road that leads to Heaven, and that many are going there. The world would also have us believe that the road that leads to destruction is narrow, and that few will take that road. But we know that there is only one way, and that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus. It has never been more important than now to share your faith. The number of people who don’t know Christ (haven’t experienced Jesus as Lord) is increasing even though there are more converts (the number has doubled since Vatican II). Mary told us at Fatima that “souls are falling into Hell like snowflakes”. And Pope John Paul II said, “we must move fast, because the enemy is moving faster.” We need to remember to move with a controlled sense of urgency, like salt in a recipe. Enough to taste, but not so much that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. We need to plant seeds, and leave the rest to God. Pope John Paul II tells us, “Now is not the time to be ashamed of the Gospel, but to shout it from the rooftops!”
- Because due to our fallen nature, we want to take the path of least resistanceIt is difficult to live a life for Christ. But Pope John Paul II tells us, “If you are who you should be, you will set the world ablaze.” We must be prepared to meet persecution (Jesus did). A missionary can be described as someone who goes to a place where he is not wanted, to sell a pearl that, although of great value, is not valued, to a people who will not accept it even as a gift. Therefore, do not seek your consolation from the world. The apostles Peter and John were ordered not to preach under fear of death (not just dirty looks) – they prayed for boldness in the face of persecution.
- Because we don’t really know what to doVery often we have a heart to evangelize, but we may not know how. We need to educate and train ourselves, in the same way you would for a career (if you aspire to be a doctor, you go to medical school). How? By giving yourself 100% to the sacraments, prayer, reading the bible, studying the teachings of the church, attending retreats and conferences, etc. When you feel called to evangelize, Satan will tell you one of two things: 1) Sure you can do it, you’re great! Or 2) You can’t do it, look at how sinful you are. But Jesus says, “Go, for I am with you.” The principle agent for evangelization is not you, it’s the Holy Spirit. All you need to do is share what God has done in your life. 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 says, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.”
- Because we experience spiritual gluttonyThe abundance and availability of religious material is a tremendous gift of the Church. There is, however, the temptation to use it for our own growth and advancement, with little regard for the growth of others. This elevates our pride, and results in greed. We need a balance of personal and missionary formation. Once we receive knowledge, we need to share it with others.
The most important contributing factor to spiritual apathy is the absence of a personal, compassionate, undying love for Jesus – the kind that is contagious. The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference (apathy). Revalations 2:2-4 says, “I know your works, your labor, your service, your endurance, yet I hold this against you, for you have lost the love you had at first.” And St. John Vianney says, “There is nothing more commonly discussed among Christians than love for God, yet nothing so uncommon.” Pope John Paul II challenged the excuse that we are too busy by saying that if we loved the Lord, we would make more time. It is not a lack of time but a lack of love that leads to spiritual apathy.
We are called to dig deep in Christ, not just conference to conference – we need to raise the standards. Evangelization is driven by your love for Christ. The prophets were pushed into life by something more powerful than themselves. We need to respond generously to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
The more we come to know Jesus, the more we will love Him. The Church is an everlasting mine containing many treasures; no matter how far you go, no matter how deep you dig, you never come to their end - fresh riches are on either side. There are several treasures in the Catholic Church that help us to evangelize, including sacraments, spirituality, prayer, scriptures, the lives of the Saints – all of these things feed you, and help you to know Christ more.
It’s time to be honest with ourselves – and remember, this is not meant to discourage, but rather to call you to action:
- Have I taken advantage of the many means Christ has given me to
grow closer to Him?
grow closer to Him?
- Am I making time to pray every day, as often as I can?
- Am I reading God’s word in the scriptures every day?
- Do I seek the Christ who is powerfully and personally present in the
sacrament of reconciliation?
sacrament of reconciliation?
- Have I made the Eucharist my absolute lifeline?
Christ makes Himself available to us when we call on Him. The question is, do you burn for the love of Christ? Because if you are who you should be, you will set the world ablaze.