Saturday, May 19, 2012

Getting Fired Up


 Recently a student of mine signed up to go on an exchange program trip in which he would spend two weeks attending school in a different part of the country, thousands of miles away. His request raised some eyebrows among his teachers because, to put it politely, he is extremely laid back and uninvolved. But I sent him anyway. 

Several days into his exchange I got an email from the adviser at the school he was visiting: “Can you suggest ways that I might try to get him more involved? He seems very distant and unconnected.” So I called the student on his cell phone and encouraged him: “This is a whole new situation, an opportunity for you to take a chance and experience new things, maybe get to know some new people.”  I'm not sure it worked. But, at least I gave it a shot.

When he returned from his trip he needed to join up with one of our experiential education projects (which is what all our students do doing May). He got permission to join a popular course that is the most hands-on and engaging experiential course in the school. After four days the teacher of the project came to me and asked ““Can you suggest ways that I might try to get him more involved? He seems very distant and unconnected.”  
I feel so sorry for the kid! Imagine sliding through your whole life "distant and unconnected?"

Then this morning I came across this passage in Acts. It's assigned at the first reading for mass for today (Saturday): 

Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and ardent in the Spirit, he taught accurately the things concerning Jesus. (Acts 18:24-25).

I noticed the word “ardent.” This is a clever translation of the Greek word “zeo,” literally to boil or to seethe; it’s usually used figuratively to describe emotions such as anger, love, and eagerness. Paul uses it in Romans 12:11 to encourage his readers be ardent in spirit” with regard to their Christian life.

In the passage from Acts Apollos is described as burning, ardent, and glowing with enthusiasm for the Gospel. I thought of my student who evidently doesn’t seem to experience that kind of enthusiasm about anything.

People can get enthusiastic and ardent about any number of things, from model railroading and gardening to joining Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Some of my students are that way about soccer, basketball or wrestling. But not this kid.


As I was reflecting on my uninvolved student I suddenly thought “What does God think of my approach to living the gospel and to prayer?” Does God the Father sometimes say to his Son, “Can you suggest ways that we might try to get Albert more involved? He seems very distant and unconnected.”

My personal prayer can sometimes get pretty ho-hum. My public prayer with my brothers too often is full of distractions. My commitment to follow Jesus even when it hurts is certainly only lukewarm.

I wonder what steps Jesus might recommend to the Father to help Albert get more involved and “ardent?” I think I can discern a few of their attempts to help fan the flames of faith, hope and love in this less-than-involved monk. First, put some people in his life that he can’t help but grow connected to, such as fellow monks who are lifelong friends, as well as relatives and friends whose love and affection he can’t deny. Second, give him a couple of students whose enthusiasm and hope are infectious, and a few whose pain and vulnerability call out the best in him. Third, overwhelm him with beauty, such as some gorgeous spring weather and the faces of kindergarten children in St. Mary’s School. Next, show him connections every day between the scripture he’s reading and the life he’s leading so that he’ll see clearly the immense, intense love that God has for him. And these are just the first steps to help him get fired up!

Well, at least God is giving it a shot, the way I did with my disconnect4ed student.

“Being ardent” is a good word-for-the-week because it can help prepare me for next Sunday, May 27, the Solemnity of Pentecost. I hope that when the tongues of fire start hovering over my head that I’ll prove to be ready to be kindled into flame by the Spirit despite my tendency to be “very distant and unconnected.”
"And you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

No comments:

Post a Comment