Back in 1995 I found myself in front of a stage, looking up at Jesus, and wholeheartedly (yet scared) giving my life to him before his presence in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Twenty-one years later, the fruit of that surrender was, looking down from that stage, with the eyes of Christ, at 1800 teens who were willing (yet scared) to give themselves to our Lord. The thirst I had back in 1995 was the same thirst these teens had in 2016. We were both struggling with dehydration, and never noticed.
The Holy Spirit gathered together such a laid back ministry team for this conference. Kris Frank, Sarah Swafford, Dan Harms, Fr. Rick, and Bob Rice. We were a holy rag-tag group of laid back personalities coming together to serve these teens. However, the Holy Spirit moving in that room, was far from laid back. The Lord, the giver of life, took that weekend and energized, synergized, and baptized all those open enough to receive his fiery movement foward.
Friday was all about getting to know the dehydration that we all struggle with. We were all thirsty but we always seemed to reach for the wrong thing to drink. We had done “our thing” for so long, that we grew comfortable in our dehydration and never noticed that our souls were dying to be revived. Kris Frank directed our attention to the Gospel of John. He mentioned the powerful, yet often missed statement that Jesus makes on his journey to Galilee, which is : “[Jesus]…had to pass through…” Although, the Sacred Scripture was talking about passing through Samaria, the point that Kris was making was that we are Samaria. We are just as broken and confused as the Samaritan’s were historically, and as Jesus had to pass through Samaria (which every other “holy” person avoided) so did He have to pass through Main Campus 5 on that night; to us. Jesus encountered us all in our personal Samaria. But, Christ didn’t just come to take care of the problem of Samaria (the problem of brokenness and infidelity) he came to give eternal living water to the one person. He came to fill the one person so that, in return that person would fill the rest of community. That person was the woman at Jacobs well. And that woman at the well was all of us on Friday night. Jesus had to pass through to encounter each us individually so that he can quench our thirst individually, so that when we were full, we could tell the community were to find this living water. And boy did we drink that water up that night.
Saturday booked ended with more of that non laid back attitude of the Holy Spirit His servants; Father Rick and Dan Harms really brought the community on a journey above the clouds and through the desert. Father Rick talked about his journey on a Hot Air Balloon. His fear almost stopped him from going, however his yes, opened his eyes to something greater. His question was simple, are we putting fire in our balloon to bring us to the heights needed so that we can catch the right current, or are we just letting our balloon sink and catch bad currents. With a day of workshops ahead the crew had a lot to take in and process before they were hit with another adventurous tale. Dan that evening spoke of his trip in a desert where he was dangerously running out of water, and authentic fear of death was his shadow. His body screamed for water. He took this story as a foundation of Jesus’ thirst for us. The story of the Samaritan women was not just a story of Jesus giving someone water, but also of Jesus’ thirst for his people: “..Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey sat down beside the well…Jesus said to her ‘give me drink’” (Jn 4:6-7). Dan made it clear, that Christ thirst for us was finally quenched at the Cross when he cried out “I THIRST” (Jn 19:28), taking the final drink of the Passover meal, the Cup of Restoration; lakachti:
“a bowl full of the vinegar stood there; they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar he said, ‘IT IS FINISHED’, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (Jn 19:29-30)
Dan let all of us know that the restoration of our brokenness, our separation from God was finalized in his sacrifice. His thirst for us was quenched via his act of love. His challenge was to meet Christ at the Cross, respond to our restoration. And did we ever respond. The songs of praise and surrender filled the air as the procession of the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, made his way to encounter all of us personally.
That Sunday, Sarah brought it together and basically challenged them to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. To acknowledge that we are thirsty no more. That we can and are called to be as courageous as the Apostles of the past. That we are the upper room people, and that the Advocate was on his way. Sarah said to us all “if the apostles had a hashtag it would read #convicted”. She wanted us to see that the power of that conviction, and ours, would once again prompt us to respond, and that response would move us forward to our homes, our friends, our communities, and the world.
The weekend was all about conquering fear, and being filled with the waters of God’s unknown call for our lives. And if we all respond to that eternal thirst quencher, then this world will never know what it means to be spiritually dehydrated because they will be drinking from the same fountain of life that we drink. Back in 1995 I came before the King of Kings scared and fearfully of what he would ask of me, twenty-one years later I responded with 1800 teens “I do what scares me…because I have been a coward for too long” Drink up, the fountain of life will never run dry.
“Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.”
The Gospel reading for today’s Liturgy comes from Evangelist Matthew. Matthew thematic focus on the life of Jesus is that of the Kingdom of God. The people have been looking for the Kingdom to be unified, fortified, sanctified, and ruled by a powerful king; the Messiah, the anointed one. Matthew does a great job making sure that they (and we) recognize that kingdom is before us. The Gospel of the day is heavy in nature. In fact, it may be hard to read if your faithful follower of his. The Gospel of the days goes on to call out those who are just stuck in their ways. Those who have conformed to a comfortable faithfulness. Those who live their lives in a habitual manner and manage to overlook, because of their comfort, the fact that Christ has more authority than original thought.
The Gospel of the day takes place early in Jesus’ ministry. This passage is a part of the conclusive remarks his Sermon at the Mount. This discourse, or homily is where Jesus establishes the teachings of the New Covenant. Like fire refines precious metals, the words of Jesus refined and made new the moral laws of the Old Covenant. However, this homily was not attempting to “devalue” the Old Covenant, rather, it “releases the hidden potential” (CCC #1968). The hidden power in the Old Convent was something that many of God’s faithful forgot about. They were created in His image and likeness, therefore, had the divine nature of Love within them. Their eyes became fixed on themselves and how they prayed to God, and they forgot to look at Him and love as he does. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Almost like its talking to us directly; today.
The Sermon at the Mount was a homily on how to live life as a follower of his, and challenged the status quo. Jesus didn’t speak as just one who studied the word, but as the Word (the logos; the Word made flesh); hence the amazement of all who heard and said “he speaks with authority and not just as a scribe”. His discourse was setting up the scene for an epic internal battle between the Law of Moses or Law of Jesus, and whether or not all who heard would accept; that Jesus was the fulfillment of the former. Mind you those listening are faithful to the Old Covenant, therefore could have received this sermon as contradicting, dismissing, or challenging the laws of Moses. Although the former is not true, the latter is the full truth. He was challenging the old ways, in order to release the “hidden potential” in the Law. How did they hear it? Did it convict, condemn, or motivate? Was this man speaking as a false prophet, or as the Man that the prophets spoke about? Was Jesus speaking “presumptuously” or would there be fruit to his teaching? (Deu 19:22) These are the possible questions running the minds of those who are listening. These question would eventually be the determining factor of whether or not they accepting the Law of the Gospel.
This specific passage challenges the current situation, and introduces Jesus as divine judge. “Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.” When speaking to co-worker about the divine judge she directed my thoughts towards the word “knew”. First let’s reset our mental picture of Judge. Erase, Judge Judy, Judge Mathis, or Peoples Court. Rather think of the etymology of judge. Judge has it Latin roots iudicem, which is a compound of ius “right, law”. A Judge in Hebrew history was one that was given temporary power and clothed for war, like in the Book of Judges. Secondly, let’s take a look at “knew” from knowledge which means “know (perceive a thing to be identical with another” and -ledge (take action). Why does this mean anything? Because the word on paper make speak to our current understanding of the text, but its deeper than just mere words. The Divine Judge looks and asks “are you identical to the image in which you were created, and did you take action?” If they were identical to the image of likeness of God, then they would have grown in relationship with him, therefore, could not have had room to set their eyes away from him. That is why he will divinely Judge, whether our actions were just actions or did we move because we were moved by him.
Jesus in the Gospel is asking the faithful a simple, yet tough question, where will they build, from what they have heard. In other words, with the questions being asked in their minds (their internal Old versus New Civil War) will they chose to be as wise as Solomon and build a temple that all would want to see. Will they take His sermon as the foundation of that Temple in their hearts, come to know the divine image and likeness in which they were created, and take action. Or will they allow those questions to sway them to build on soft unstable ground and watch the Kingdom they built sink into the mud of mediocrity and compliancy.
I landed in Dallas Love-field Airport not knowing what to expect. Actually, It wasn’t so much of the expectation as much as it was anticipation. This has been a long time coming for Texas. In fact, this conference sold out within four hours of opening registration. What should have been an 1800 capped conference became a 3500 teen conference with 2,000 on a waiting list. Needless to say this Steubenville Conference, on it inaugural year, became the second largest conference of the many offered throughout the summer. Was is this important to note…well that goes without saying (but I will say, in order to make all Texans proud); Texans only know how to make thing BIG, and they left their mark on Steubenville Conferences, like a Cowboy branding his cattle.
The team, Ike Ndolo, Emily Wilson, Mary Bielski, Mark Hart, Chris Stefanick, and this short little dude who considered himself to be a Puerto Rican Ostrich (it’s me) ; were ready to take Texas by the horns and ride the Lone Star right into a heavenly sacramental encounter with our Lord Jesus the Christ. They were ripe and ready to get right into it. The 3500 teens were asked to encounter, and meet Jesus at the well (John 4:10). At the well Jesus who was thirsting to bring the Kingdom of God to all, also acknowledge the unspoken spiritual thirst of the Samaritan women. We are all that Samaritan women looking for water in the same place only to leave thirsty again. But after here encounter with Jesus his words were simple “I am the living water” the eternal thirst quencher, so why not “Obey our Thirst” properly and take in the water that is life giving.
The Spirit moved in that room, like a Puerto Rican Ostrich being shot forward into the air via a giant sling shot (I explain this in a later Blog). In other words, the Holy Spirit moved in that room, and the teens did not attempt to “tame” the wildly creative, yet healing power of the breath of God.
This conference taught me a very valuable lesson, expect nothing, but anticipate greatness whenever you allow the Holy Spirit to move. The Lone Star state does things big; as does the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when a region is open to big things, then they will receive big blessings, because the Holy Spirit doesn’t work in increments. He is in the business of filling. Dallas Lone Star if you are still Thirsty after this conference than you have not been drinking for the Well of the Living water.
His protection is with us, his presence, which is love, is enduring, and his Word walks in the midst of us. What else could we possibly ask for from our God? Have our expectations become our new savior, or does he still sit at the throne of our hearts?
1st Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19
Jeremiah was written during the EXILE period within Judah (722- 538 BC). During this time the kingdom was in turmoil, and due to this unrest they; the chosen of God feel back to their idolatry. He was a follower of King Josiah’s reform which ended Josiah’s life in battle. Jeremiah later went on to council King Josiah’s son , Zedeikah. Jeremiah’s council was opposed, challenged and rejected numerous times, which lead to the eventual reverse Exodus of Judah (a fleeing back into Egypt), and saw God’s people lose their promise land to Babylon. Jeremiah remained faithful to God’s promise to him of protection. He was not popular for what he said, but he spoke a loving truth; which would fell on deaf ears.
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Saint Paul is writing to the church of Corinth during a time of struggle. This church was only about five years established, since Paul founded it. Since Paul’s departure division, sexual immortality and denial plagued the Church. The City of Corinth is an ancient city polytheistic and hedonistic. It was a city of pleasure, an ancient depiction of a modern day Las Vegas. Paul writes to his church in spiritual counsel, but with a spirit of bold truth saturated in love. This popular “wedding reading” addresses Church who used their gifts carelessly. They exalted their gifts as things that can gain them; popularity, control, power, or even wealth. It was a reckless use of their gifts. So Paul addressed the root of the problem and returned them the nucleus of Christian teaching; love, which “never fails”
Gospel: Luke 4:21-30
Luke is an author unlike the others of the New Testament writings. Luke is Gentile, and not a descendant of Abraham. Luke gospel has a central theme of universal salvation, which is evident in his account of Jesus’ interaction with his home town of Nazerth : “it was to none of these that Elijah in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed but only Naaman the Syrian”
In the Gospel of Luke Jesus teachings at the synagogue in Nazareth and tells them “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Jesus gave his birthplace a bit of inside information, and their response was not as welcoming. In fact, it execalated quickly when Jesus reminded them of the mission of Elijah and Elisha and how they cured Gentiles. Elijah cured the son of the widow (1 Kings 17). Elisha cured Naaman, solider for King Aman who so happened to be at war with Israel (2 Kings 5). The words: “But in truth I tell you….Elijah was sent to none of them [Isreal] but only to Zarephath…And there were many lepers in Israel…and none of them cleansed but only Naaman” (v. 25-26), infuriated the crowd. The crowd who at one time “spoke well of him” (v. 22) was not plotting his death as they “rose up and put him out of the city…. that they might throw him down headlong” (v. 29)
These readings speak volumes of history repeating itself. The first reading is a world of chaos and looming doom. The mouth piece of God, the Prophet Jeremiah, attempts to council to protect, and in return he is ignored. The second reading describes infancy of Christianity and its childish practice of their devotion. The Church allowed Corinth’s culture to latch on to the counter cultural life of Jesus. Finally, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus came forth with a message of love and hope, essentially revealing that he is the fulfillment and the embodiment of “good news to the power…release to the captives, recovering sight to the blind…liberty [to] those who are oppressed” (v. 18), and as the prophets of the old he was rejected. Don’t we all fall victim to this? We await the fulfillment of God’s presence in our lives, and when the solution is not what we expect we reject it, and never respond. Have we grown so comfortable in our lives, and our faith that we allow the culture of our times to dictate the pace of our faith. As the Church prepares itself for Lent, allow these reading to prepare our hearts for Lent as well. Let us not allow history to repeat itself. Let’s respond to God’s protection, his hope, and his love which will endure all things, and don't allow our expectations to reject God's will for our lives.
Did you know that Jesus did not know about his death or resurrection? Are you aware that the transfiguration never really happened? Adam and Eve was a story made up according to scare us from sin. The devil doesn’t exist. JESUS DID NOT DIE FOR OUR SINS, he died because of social sins (ie, prejudice, racism, political struggles). If you did not know this, you are not alone, apparently I did not know either. I heard a lot of these statements, and said to myself: this is to theology what pornography is to sex.
These statements place God in a box in which we can control or human enlightened understanding of the mystery of our faith. The Prophet Isaiah wrote the following:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thought” (Isa 55:8)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
“Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so…We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God—‘the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable’--with our human representations. Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God” (40, 42).
“By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works. But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation.” (50).
It drives me insane to hear these statements. The Church in her wisdom, coupled with the Sacred Scriptures has; by the direction of the Holy Spirit, guided the followers of Christ to experience God. However, we are greedy and lustful. We [humanity] need to not understand, or experience God, WE NEED TO SOLVE GOD. The lust for trying to solve the “God Thing” is no different than a man that lust over a woman. He is only attracted to her physicality and does not truly desire to experience her, commit to her, be one with her. That choice would require an act of humility. Similarly, this fixation of attempting to put God in a controlled box is no different than the man lusting. There is no intention of committing to God, as much as there is a desire to figure him out and control him.
We can all learn from the Ethiopian Enuch in the Acts of the Apostles, who was attempting to understand Isaiah. Philip lead by the Spirit approached the Ethiopian and said: “ ‘Do you understand what you are reading? ‘He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him. (Acts 8:29-31).
Statements like; Did you know that Jesus did not know about his death or resurrection? Are you aware that the transfiguration never really happened? Adam and Eve was a story made up according to scare us from sin. The devil doesn’t exist. JESUS DID NOT DIE FOR OUR SINS,
nulls and voids salvation history, limits God, separates Christ’s divinity from his humanity, and makes Jesus, the son of God, a person that was just caught up in mere circumstances of social injustice. It limits Christ and the salvific grace of the passion in a human box. If you happen to not agree with statements like that you are labeled a fundamentalist, literalist, right winged conservative spiritual nut case, who just follows the hierarchy of the Church blindly, enslaved to childish thoughts. Consider me old school, but I am going to trust in the faith, that allows me to believe in the mystery of Faith. A faith that tells me that God, my father loves me so much that he would send his only beloved son to share in my humanity and suffer for the sins of humanity. Heretics, you offend good, prudent, and responsible theology. It literally (for the sake of instant gravitation of instantaneous insight) perverts knowledge of God. John Paul II is accredited with saying: "The problem with pornography isn't that it shows too much. The problem with pornography is that it doesn't show enough."
A heretical style of teaching is caught up in words, like pornography is just caught up in the body.
Terms to understand:
Pornography: "consists in removing real or simulated acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other." (CCC#2354)
Heresy: “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same” (CCC#2089)
*disclaimer: I believe all in what the Catholic Church teaches, I love and trust her as she leads me to a greater understanding, experience, and relationship with my first true LOVE; JESUS CHRIST.
If video killed, the radio star, and reality TV killed the MTV star, would it be save to say that musical sexual expression has killed the music star.
Not so Grande. But at least none else got BIT.
Ariana Grande, Nikki and Jessie J Performance
Ariana Grande (ps she is super short [not hating, it just didn’t realize how short she was) kicking off the VMA was a risky move, especially because her new album was being released after the VMA (no pressure, Arianna). However, such an over produced; synthesized song like “Break Free” is always going to stretch the live performer’s ability to recreate the production. And that performance did not fail the critics.
Nikki’s “Anaconda” was no Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke nastiness, but it was still raunchy and…um uncalled for. Well at least Arianna got a second chance, and her voice was phenomenal the second time around. Jessie J, and Ariana sounded great together, however it did get a little chaotic with the three of them tried to nail the ending. Chances are their in-ear monitors didn’t have much of the other singer’s vocals in the mix.
Two Ten Grade: C
Best Female Video
Katty Perry “Dark Horse”
Don’t jump Taylor. You funny girl!
Taylor Swift Performance
The 1920’s meets the 80’s was a classy performance. Taylor Swift had a comedic moment with the “I don’t care if it’s the VMA’s, I’m not jumping off this thing…people getting bit by snacks and stuff” improve moment was great. The performance was fun, light hearted, and classy.
Two Ten Grade: A
Best Male Video
Ed Sherman “Sing”
Best Pop Video
Ariana Grande “Problem”
Sam Smith Performance
Spot light, piano, microphone, and singer…bring it! Sam Smith killed this performance, with a powerful simplicity that highlighted why he should be an artist to watch this year. His performance show cased his control, range, and ability to captivate.
Two Ten Grade: A+
“Hip Hop has always presented a voice for the revolution”
Best Hip Hop Video
Drake “Hold On”
So much for SO MUCH HYPE!
Usher & Nikki Performance
Usher singing was slightly lackluster, but his overall stage presence was energetic. Playing the bass during Nikki’s verse, minus the butt bumping nonsense, was a testament of his musicianship. When a performer is a dancer and singer, it usually leads to one or the other being compromised. In this case, it was so true. His singing was not the best of Usher, but his dancing was on point.
Two Ten Grade: C
Best Rock Video
5 Seconds needed 10 additional minutes
The classic acoustic, lead electric, bass, and drummer is a thing of the 90’s, but not for 5 Seconds of Summer, their basic band set up and performance was a refreshing look back and hope for the future of rock.
Two Ten Grade: B+
Artist to Watch
Fifth Harmony “Miss Movin’ On”
(Not going to lie, I didn’t think you were going to win either. We were all surprised)
Black Widow’s Web will be all over the World Wide Web
Iggy Azalea feat Rita Ora Performance
The impressive string and orchestra intro was just alluding to the fact that this performance was going to be just that; impressive. Iggy Azalea held up her part of the performance very well. However, Rita Ora did a little too much to attempt to match the larger-than-life intro, that she dropped the ball on her chorus. Regardless, of the chorus, IGGY was on point with her verses. She did not show an ounce of fatigue during her long winded, breathe consuming tongue twister type verses.
Two Ten Grade: A-
Wait Maroon 5 is Performing…GET MY PHONE
Maroon 5 Performance
“I would rather see my favorite band via my cell phone…that’s the new LIVE experience .” Who can post the snippets on YouTube, Instagram, and other social media’s site faster determines how great of a fan you are. That performance was amazing, however, I don’t think many people actually saw it
Two Ten Grade: B
Video of the year
Miley Cyrus “Cannonball”
Miley Cyrus’ song Cannonball, receiving that award shocked me in two ways. For one, Pharells “Happy” transcended a ton of boundaries and it didn’t get a single award tonight ; this should have been that award. This song has been listened to by 5 year olds and loved, and listened by 95 years and equally loved. Happy should have won, however, the second shocker of was; “who is that guy going up…is this another Kanye moment?” The speech was from the heart a young man who was once homeless. Miley arranged for this former homeless teen to accept the award on her behalf, and to take the time that would have been allotted to her speech to raise awareness of homeless youth of America. It was a powerful witness of what happens when you judge a book by its cover. By no means am I trying to say that Miley Cyrus ought to canonized for her decision, however, think about it. From a secular point of view, her witness tonight, was a testament of the power of love, which was created in her heart from the beginning of time. Miley (like all of us reading and all the artist there) were created in God’s image and likeness. That one moment showed that although her song s video was as wreckless as a canoonball, that her heart is not. That one moment , showed that some in the industry have not turned a blind eye to the vulnerable of our society.
Feminism at its WORST
Beyonce Vanguard Performance
“I'm not gon compromise my Christianity (I'm better than that)” (Survivor, Destiny Child)
From a performance point of view, the dancing (when there was actually dancing) was good. It gave certain songs a bizarre mysterious intrigue about the songs, they often weren’t even clear enough to be appreciated. Here dedication to Blue Ivy was moving, and you can see the love that she has for her daughter, as she struggled to keep it together .The surprise on her face when Jay Z awarding her with the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award was an amazing moment. To see a strong pop culture couple showing the power of family made the performance.
Now for the nitty gritty. I’m all about artistic expression, but what in the world is going on with this over sexualized notation that sexual expression is empowering women and the new feminism. As a role model she has a responsibility to protect woman from making their bodies weapons of manipulation, control, and power. Telling girls to get what they want via sex, promiscuity, and sex appeal contradicts all that the feminist movement did to make sure women were not being used. But now the message is “as long as your using men via your bodies it’s okay”. It’s a shame that women like Beyonce would rather see woman take many steps backwards in order to get ahead in life. I understand that performers are just that; performers. But at the end of the day people are sponges and they soak this in thinking that, “well this is how Beyonce did it, and look where it got it” Newsflash my dear women, she did not do anything that she is singing about to get where she is. She worked hard, respected herself, prayed, sacrificed, and paid tribute to the man who gave her these blessing, JESUS CHRIST. So don’t fall into the trap of this new artistic sexual feminism, because it will not land you your dreams.
Two Ten Grade: C
Pushing the envelope seems to be the norm for most mainstream artist. Miley did this, so I’m going to do this, Nikki did this so next year I’m going to do something news worthy. It’s a vicious over sexualized competition as to who can out sexify the next artist. It’s getting a little bit embarrassing for the music industry. The overall rating on this was PG-13 (modern PG-13) compared to last year’s R rating, so I will rejoice in the improvement. Overall this VMA gets an average grade is B-. Taylor, Sam, 5sos, and Azalea helped significantly with their stellar performances. However, the Beyonce, Usher, and Nikki were undoubtedly the reasons that this VMA did not achieve higher in my gradebook.
OVERALL Performance GRADE: B-
Just arrived back from Steubenville Northwest in Spokane, Washington and only one word can sum this trip up; YES! The team was fired up and ready to bring whatever message the Holy Spirit inspired in their hearts, and as a team we delivered one message: “Will you say YES to who GOD IS?”
God is creative, God is faithful and God is here was the three part talk series that took place on Friday evening. Each presenter was like a guitar in God’s hands, and he strummed and strummed that evening as the teens engaged in the rhythm of the night. Then finally the speaking ceased and the star of the evening had a brief personal encounter with each of the teens and team. It was only a taste of what was to come.
God came in this weekend to encounter every teen, team member, volunteer, sound tech, camera person, and convention staff. Whether we knew it or not God was here for us individually. It was our “YES” that he sought out. Not our excuses of why we say “no” or “later”, he wanted all of us to see is humble love, mercy and power, and in return all we needed to say was “YES” to receiving what he had to offer. And the teens and team boldly said “YES!”
I had the honor of serving along side a team of servants this weekend at Steubenville Florida in Orlando. This team brought a heat that made the Florida heat seem air conditioned. Every speaker was on point, passionate, and authentic. The music and visuals provided an atmosphere of radical catholic love, which introduced the weekend with an energy that didn't let down for the first drum hit to the last strum.
The speakers rode that majestic wave and the Holy Spirit inspired us to real know the needs of teens and to speak to that. All the music, words, and atmospheric allure paled in comparison to the main highlight JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF. When he arrived and encountered the teens, briefly on Friday night, his demeanor was that of "just wait my children I'm gonna bring the refreshing heat of my mercy and love soon enough." The spirit moved in these teens and throughout the weekend it was present.
The Mass on the following morning provided the spiritual nourishment needed for the rest of journey. Workshops, entertainment, and my personal favorite the service project was awe inspiring. Seeing the teens engaged in the numerous sessions and then providing meals to Africa via the CRS (Catholic Relief Services) made be so proud to be Catholic. However, once again JESUS would take all the work and give them rest on Saturday night. When he arrived walking through the smoke of incense through the teens it was something than would make the most epic moment seem dull. This moment was the apex of epic moments. The teens, and the team witnessed Christ heal, revive, and reveal himself in a manner that just seemed like all accepted with a peaceful surrender.
Saturday ended, and Sunday followed with men's and women's session and I have to say that this is the generation where these young men are going to become crusaders for purity. The power of the men's session left me speechless, inspired, and hopeful for the future. The bishop ended the weekend long journey with a witty and on point homily that wrapped everything up perfectly. I can hear the heavenly court just chanting YES! YES! YES!...as the team spoke and sang as one voice in Holy Spirit, proclaiming that at the end of the day above all God Is!
Oscar "Two Ten" Rivera is all about bringing the fire. Passionate, comedic, and driven to deliver the truth, the right way.