Part of me was disappointed to know I wouldn’t get to see St. Louis, Missouri this year. We’d miss out on the plane rides, hotel rooms, running around a conference center, and watching thousands of priests process down the aisle to celebrate mass with thousands of college students and missionaries.
My hope is that we will be able to gather by the masses to celebrate Christ and His Church again soon. But there was a new joy that rose whenever I imagined SEEK21 on campus. The barrier to entry had never been lower. I realized my desire for others to experience Christ through this conference was stronger than my own wish to have a good experience.
There are two excuses that usually arise when inviting a college student to a Catholic conference they’ve never heard of. They’ll answer: I can’t travel over break. Or: That’s too expensive. Both of these obstacles were taken down when we invited students to join us for a weekend on campus at a lower cost compared to the usual conference. Students showed up, from Bible study participants to roommates to friends.
One of our missionaries reminded us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The same God who we encountered so deeply at previous conferences and on our mission trip would be at work on our campus during this virtual conference. He was right.
After reflecting on the ways Jesus moved me during that weekend, I have come away with a new understanding of Christ.
First, never underestimate the power of the Gospel proclamation. I had learned it months before. But Jesus always invites us into a deeper encounter with Him. The Gospel is the greatest love story ever told. This truth is life-changing.
The Gospel was the heart of SEEK, the main message.
We were created for relationship with God.
Sr. Miriam asked us the question, “Who am I?” She says, “It’s only when we turn our face to Him that we find out who He is and who we are.”
That relationship was broken by sin.
Sr. Miriam quoted Fr. Jacques Philippe when he said, “When we sin it’s because we’ve forgotten we belong.”
Jesus (His passion on the cross) is the bridge between us and God which had been divided by sin.
Bishop Robert Barron told us, “Jesus is fully divine and fully human, to be able to save us from our sins he had to take on our humanity.”
Dr. Edward Sri said while quoting a saint, “Jesus wants to be with us so much that ‘the nails could not have kept Him there if love had not held them first.’ Jesus’ gift of love makes up for our lack of love in sin, He does not hesitate to do the hard thing and save us.”
Will you follow Him?
Bishop Robert Barron challenged us when he said, “Jesus compels a choice. If Jesus is everything He says He is I have to give everything to Him.”
Fr. Mike Schmitz said, “We underestimate what it takes to live in the Father’s house, just let yourself be known and loved by the Father.”
The second thing I learned is God wants us to receive. Sr. Bethany Madonna’s told us, “The enemy says we need to grasp when God wants us to receive.” The truth behind these words sunk in as I reflected on my own life. As soon as we trust that He has a plan, releasing control allows us to receive what He has for us. His will for our lives is greater than anything we can imagine. Only He will satisfy the longings of our hearts.
Christ worked through the last minutes of our time in adoration. I had been distracted, but our singing at the end of adoration brought peace. One of our missionaries reminded us that God is our Father and we are His beloved. I’m thankful Jesus spoke through him to remind me of the truth and His love for me.
Finally, I was reminded that once we experience Christ who is Love Himself, we recognize the urgency of mission. This is what our world longs for. We cannot keep His love, mercy, truth, beauty, and goodness to ourselves.
Perhaps this was where we were meant to be. Surrounded by our friends, watching talks in parishes and on the couch in our apartments with our roommates, hearing the Gospel proclaimed from another state, all the while knowing that we are part of one universal Church.
P.S. More quotes:
“It’s only when we turn our face to Him that we find out who He is and who we are,” – Sr. Miriam James Heidland
“Jesus compels a choice.” – Bishop Robert Barron
“Do the hard. Be like Jesus and be different.” – Dr. Edward Sri
“The enemy says we need to grasp when God wants us to receive.” – Sr. Bethany Madonna
“If Jesus were to walk in, would He recognize the Church and all its members?” – China Anyanwu
“Our world needs saints, our culture is in desperate need of saints,” – Emily Wilson
“We overestimate what it takes to come back home (and) we underestimate what it takes to live in the house of the Father.” – Fr. Mike Schmitz