Everybody knows the answer. We lose hope. We feel isolated and lonely. We become restless. We go looking for something to fill the gap. And sometimes we go looking in all the wrong places. Sound familiar? If so, you're not alone. A lot of people today feel far from home. They may be divorced or widowed. They may live hundreds of miles from parents, siblings and cousins. They may be so busy working, commuting and running errands that they have little time to spend with the people they love.
They long for home and family, a place to be and become. But the kind of home they crave seems like an impossible dream — like something out of an episode of "Leave it to Beaver". Augustine, one of the early fathers of the Christian church, knew what it was like to feel this way. More than 1, years ago he summed up the situation of hurting and searching people in the words of a simple prayer. Speaking to God, he said, "You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.
Was Augustine right? If he was, we should sit up and take notice. Because if rest and satisfaction are found in God alone, then even the best of human homes can never bring peace to our restless hearts. The love of father, mother, brother, sister, husband or wife, wonderful as they are, can never completely fill the bill. We need something deeper, broader and stronger — something perfect and unchanging. We need Someone who can provide for us, listen to us, care for us, counsel us, discipline us, protect us and enjoy us forever — Someone who knows us inside and out, who loves us all the same, who gives unselfishly, keeps all His promises and never gets sick or dies.
Sound impossible? Humanly speaking, it is. But God can do all of this and more. He strongly desires to make all people part of His family — a family that will one day be perfect and last forever.
Coming Home: An Invitation to Join God's Family
In many respects, God is like a good human father. He loves His children and is pleased when they love Him in return. He provides for them and protects them. He gives them guidance and, when necessary, punishment.
Faith in the Work
He understands their limitations and is quick to forgive. Above all, He is generous and kind. The Bible calls this kindness and generosity grace. In other ways, God is far greater than any human father could ever be. For one thing, He is all-powerful. Nothing can keep Him from helping His children. For another, He is all-loving. In God there is no selfishness or pride to interfere with His relationship with His children.
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God is also all-knowing, so His guidance is completely worthy of trust. Since God is present everywhere at once, His children never have to strike out on their own.
Because He is eternal, they never have to fear being abandoned. At this point you may feel like asking, "If this perfect heavenly Father really exists, and if He really satisfies people's deepest longings, why is the world full of unhappy people? What kind of father would let his children get hurt, suffer, and die? How can anyone watch the evening news and seriously say that the universe is run by a kind, generous and gracious Father? If He's so powerful and loving, why doesn't He do something about the mess on earth?
As a matter of fact, He has done something: when the world was spinning out of control and the people in it were lost and dying as a result of their own sins and bad choices, He sent His only Son to save Creation by suffering and dying in our place. The real question is not "Why doesn't God do something?
In other words, the world as we see it today is not the world as the Creator made it in the beginning. That's because mankind has deliberately turned away from God for more details, read Genesis Chapter 3. Ever since Adam and Eve made this terrible choice in the Garden of Eden, the world has existed in an abnormal state.
Is God Calling You?
That's why we have disease and disasters, hatred and war, birth defects and broken relationships. It's also the reason God had to send His Son into the world to save it. He has a better plan, and He's in the process of working it out. But why does the process have to be so slow?
Why doesn't God put a stop to all these problems now? One answer is that God is love and love pursues relationship.
Relationship is central to all of His dealings with mankind. And real relationship is impossible unless both parties enter into it freely and willingly. It implies the possibility of brokenness and pain. As in any meaningful human relationship, so in our relationship with the Creator, genuine love takes time and can't be forced. The Bible tells this story of God's love for His children. In the New Testament — especially in the four Gospel narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — we read that God sent His Son to earth as a human being to undo Adam's tragic mistake — to choose life for the human race where Adam chose death.
If you aren't familiar with this story, its outline is pretty simple.
Jesus, who was at the same time completely God and man, was born to the virgin Mary, worked quietly in a carpenter's shop until He turned 30, and then began a three-year career of teaching and healing. Now, you can too. It can be difficult when we feel like our fellow Christians aren't acting very Christian toward us or toward others. The Church is indeed made up of sinful, imperfect people, who often disappoint.
But rather than distancing yourself from the Holy Eucharist and the Catholic Church that Christ founded, consider clinging to Jesus all the more, since he never disappoints.
Do not allow the actions of some to cause you to lose faith in the Church as a whole. Discuss your frustrations with a priest or deacon at your local parish, and start your journey back to a welcoming home. Above all, do not lose heart. People may disappoint, but God never leaves us, and He is always present in the Catholic Church he founded. The response has been overwhelming. We have discovered that many of our homes have extended home members that come from diverse religious backgrounds.
One Catholic Grandmother told me after one event that no one had ever asked her to teach the faith to her children, let alone her grandchildren.
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Nor did she ever expect a Lutheran minister to ask her, a Roman Catholic, to pass on faith. We begin by asking the parents and home members about the faith talks they have with their children. Usually the response is simply a blank stare that would suggest that discussions are not easy to come by. By the end of the session parents are usually overwhelmed by the questions and insights their little ones have about life and death, about creation, about the world, and about God and faith. Currently we offer sessions for each year from Baptism to an event for graduating seniors.
Catholics Come Home
At every session the home is central and parent s or other home members are present, as well as members of the congregation. In 8 th grade we offer a Bible Survey Course. During the interview we asked how they liked coming to class as a family instead of with simply classmates. The youth noticed that the presence of parents and mentor simply made the difference that they appreciated.
It is amazing to watch the look in the eyes of a young adult when he or she watches and listens to a caring adult, a mentor or parent share their questions and responses related to faith. We have youth of various ages along with parent and non-parent adults attending the Basic Bible Course. The Mentoring program is open to all homes and can begin at any age. In other words it is not uncommon to have youth of various ages in the course. One of the most unexpected blessings of doing ministry in this way has come from the homes that have experienced division.
It is not uncommon in our program for divorced couples to attend the class together with their child. In one instance we had a family where the mother and father had never married, but shared custody. Every week the three of them came not only to class together, but also met for an extra hour to study and prepare. This study time was not required! In short, I have seen more lives changed, reconciled, and blessed by this emphasis than I ever witnessed in the 20 plus years of doing traditional religious education.
This is exactly what we are striving to do. Now for a moment of twentieth century church heresy and I need to be state this clearly. Our focus is not on youth. This is not a youth based program. It is not a way of getting youth so that we can get the parents. Instead,this is a home-centered program.