Taking a Stand

Yesterday I officially became a candidate for the diaconate in the diocese of Steubenville. It is a great honor! After posting some pictures of the Candidacy Mass on Instagram, I received a number of congratulations from friends, as well as comments asking, “had you told us about this before?”

The answer: not really. Two years ago I was in the “discernment” phase, and this last year was the “aspirancy” phase. However, it isn’t uncommon that people in the process don’t move on to the next step, candidacy, for a number of reasons. So I didn’t want to be super public until it was official. And now it is! Hurray! I’m a wanna be deacon! Set the countdown clock to three years from now when, God willing, I will be ordained.

I was explaining the diaconate to a friend of mine who wasn’t Catholic. He was supportive, ’cause he’s my friend, but also confused. “You’ve been watching the news, right?” he asked. “Isn’t this a weird time to be doubling down on Catholicism?”

I laughed because I hadn’t thought of that. At a time when many are wondering why anyone would be Catholic, I’m standing before a bishop pledging my obedience.

God often asks those who follow him to do weird things that seem like a bad idea. Today’s first reading was from the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived a difficult time for the Jewish faith. The armies of Babylon were marching toward Jerusalem, and there was no way the city was going to survive. So what did God ask Jeremiah to do? Buy land.

Everyone thought he was crazy. Who would buy property in a city that was about to be destroyed? But God wanted to show through Jeremiah’s action that no matter what was about to happen to Jerusalem in the short term, the land would always be valuable.

I believe that is a good message for us who are Catholic today. There are plenty of stories about young people being disinterested, many being frustrated, churches closing, dioceses going bankrupt, and more scandals being revealed.

As bad as that is, what we hear in today’s Gospel is even worse: signs in the sky, nations in tumult, the ocean surging, and people dying of fright. His command to us was not to run and hide, but “stand erect and raise your heads.” We must have confidence in the Lord and his love for his bride, the Church.

The Body of Christ is more than a sum of its sin and scandals. People’s impression of Catholicism won’t change because of canonical changes regarding the persecution of bishops, nor will people be joining the RCIA in coming years because they really respect how vigorous the Church’s safe environment policies are. No, perceptions can only change through the witness of faith from those who are disciples of Jesus Christ. It will be in our service to the poor and our love of the Eucharist. It will be through the compassion we show others, and the joy that comes from the Gospel.

So what should we do? Buy land. Double down. The world is wondering why anybody would be Catholic today. Let’s tell them. Let’s show them. And as we begin this season of Advent, let us have hope in Emmanuel, “God-with-us”, who is coming for our salvation.