I recently shared with our staff a statement of our mission which I now want to share with you.
The Word of God
Renewal Ministries’ mission is to receive the Word of God, listen to what God is saying, and respond to Him as best we can. This means we pay attention to Jesus—the Word the Father speaks to humanity. John of the Cross said everything God the Father wants to say to us is contained in Jesus. There’s an inexhaustible richness in Christ.
One way Renewal Ministries pays attention to Jesus is in our twice-a-month Bible study. This helps us grow in unity with each other and with God. We want the Lord’s mind and heart, and this becomes possible when we meditate on his Word and invite the Holy Spirit to help us obey, understand, and communicate it.
In today’s Church, there is much confusion in the authority, intelligibility, and understandability of Scripture. As Paul says, you’re not receiving a human word, you’re receiving God’s Word (Gal 1:11-12). And in Dei Verbum, the Church teaches that “everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit” (Section 11).
Scripture teaches faithfully, firmly, and without error those truths God consigned to the sacred writings for our salvation. Salvation depends on hearing, believing, and understanding that God’s Word is supremely authoritative, without error, and divinely inspired. Unfortunately, this is hardly believed anymore. We need confidence in Scripture, respect for it, and a disposition of obedience towards it. However, many people today, rather than trying to explain God’s Word, work at trying to explain it away.
We are encountering challenges similar to those Jesus and the apostles faced. Some people want to hear God’s Word, and some don’t. Many people want to pick and choose what they agree with in God’s Word and what they disagree with. That is a form of rebellion.
The Book of Revelation warns, “If any one adds to (the words of the prophecy of this book), God will add to him the plagues . . . and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city” (Rv 22:18-19).
Today’s Church is filled with people adding to or taking away from God’s Word—but very seldom embracing it, because it is challenging. What Jesus says can sometimes seem shocking but consider this, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8-9).
When God’s Word disturbs us, we must not reject it but struggle to understand it. Ask the Lord for help. Choosing our own offense over the Word is a recipe for disaster, confusion, and deception.
These examples reveal why we need to be so clear about what God’s Word says and attentive to the Holy Spirit. I used to talk to many people while traveling, but in recent years, everyone has headphones and screens on. Recently, though, a couple of people spoke with me. First, I flew next to a prosperous, middle-aged woman who works as an executive. When she asked what I did, I said I teach theology at a Catholic seminary. I asked if she’d grown up in any faith, and she said she had attended Catholic schools through college.
I asked, “Are you still practicing your faith?” She responded, “No, the nuns taught us it’s all about social justice. I’m committed to social justice and very spiritual. I’m looking into Buddhist meditation and some spiritual gurus.”
I said, “If Jesus really is God, and He really is raised from the dead, He’s the one you need to pay attention to, because Buddha didn’t rise from the dead.”
She said, “I could never go back to being Catholic because at Mass, that awful prayer is so demeaning.”
I asked, “What prayer is that?”
She said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
I responded, “That’s my favorite prayer. In Holy Communion, we approach someone infinitely good, pure, holy, and truthful. And I am not those things! I need Him to change me, heal my soul, and make me more like Him.”
She said, “That was worth sixteen years of Catholic education!” She responded very positively to my explanation.
Then, I flew next to a man from Palm Springs going to take care of his parents in Michigan. He said he is gay and was raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist, which is strict. He said, “As soon as I realized I was gay, I realized that that stuff doesn’t apply to me. God loves me just as I am.”
I said, “All of us have strong desires and disordered desires. We should resist those and identify with what God says about who we are. This is true for our happiness on earth and affects our eternal destiny.” I spoke about the immoral not entering the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10). This doesn’t judge anyone’s worth or how much God loves them; it’s a judgment on doing things God says not to do because they’re seriously wrong, harm the people who do them, and could exclude people from God’s kingdom.
He was listening but not immediately accepting. I said, “I bet you weren’t expecting to hear this today.” And he agreed.
These were opportunities to see where people are at and preach the Gospel. Many Catholics and Christians are thinking like this.
I also want to tell you about two situations in which I couldn’t respond as I would have liked. In one, a dedicated Catholic couple told me the woman’s sister was getting a divorce and remarrying. I asked if she had an annulment. She said, “She doesn’t need one. God understands.”
If the social situation had allowed, I would have said, “God says if you marry someone who is authentically married to someone else, you’re committing adultery. Don’t you think your sister should find out if she’s free to marry by submitting her situation to the judgment of the Church? If she’s not, she may be committing adultery.”
I didn’t have a chance to say that, but that’s where a very committed Catholic couple was at in their thinking: “God understands.”
Later, I spoke with a very committed Catholic woman whose daughter is in a same-sex relationship. I said, “That’s too bad.”
She replied, “She says she can’t be happy without this.”
I wished the situation had allowed me to say, “What does Jesus say about what makes you happy? What does God’s Word say about having sexual relationships with somebody of the same sex?”
This deception, confusion, blindness, resistance to God’s Word, and facile rejection of it is everywhere. We must be clear about what God’s Word says and open to the Holy Spirit’s inspirations, while also recognizing the prevalence of deception in today’s world. It’s becoming rare to find Catholics saying, “Speak Lord, your servant listens”—not just in terms of mission, but in terms of what’s real, what’s right or wrong, and what determines eternal salvation.
Putting Our Loves in Order
When Jesus said challenging things, some people left Him instead of seeking a fuller understanding. It’s difficult to be all-in on the Word of God, because a therapeutic overlay cloaks the sharpness of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in his glory” (Lk 9:26).
That is shocking; I’m still wrestling with it. But one surprising category in the lake of fire is cowards (Rv 21:8). Unfortunately, we all have a deep inclination to be cowards in certain situations.
Many of us put loves other than God first: security, relationships, social approval, family, etc. The Gospel repeatedly tells us that to be healed and redeemed, we must put Jesus first:
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).
“He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37).
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28).
“Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk 10:20).
These verses provide a difficult-but-important perspective that will prevent us from becoming cowards. They mean that love of God must override even love of family or a love of seeing God’s power working through us. We must put our joys, fears, and loves in order—which requires asking the Lord for help.
When we need help putting our loves in order, or if we think we’ve reached the end of our generosity, faith, or ability to experience discomfort in following the Lord, that’s the time to ask for power and grace from on high. We all will encounter the impossibility of something the Lord asks us to do or become. But discomfort isn’t a sign that something isn’t working right, and we “can do all things in him who strengthens” us (Phil 4:13). As Mary told St. Bernadette, “I do not promise you happiness in this world but in the next.”
Sometimes we experience pain and suffering here on earth, like not being able to remarry if we have an authentic existing first marriage or not being able to respond to an unrighteous emotional attachment. There is pain and loneliness—purification and suffering—in such things, but it’s the kind that heals and delivers. Happiness on earth is relative and mixed with trouble, sorrow, and self-denial—but it’s heading for the eternal weight of glory.
Our Mission: Salvation
Jesus says unless we eat his body and drink his blood, we will have no life (Jn 6:53). Unless we repent, we’re going to perish (Lk 13:3). And God will throw the weeds into the fire and put the wheat into the barn (Mt 3:12). Many people feel like Christianity is optional, that it’s nice to follow Jesus, but your life doesn’t depend on it. Your life does depend on it; your eternal destiny depends on it.
Renewal Ministries wants to help as many people as possible to believe, be reconciled to God, and be saved. We want to enrich people’s lives and empower them with the Holy Spirit. We’re in the business of salvation, holiness, and evangelization—and we never want to stop. There’s always greater union with the Lord, greater understanding, and greater surrender to Him. Thank you for helping us do this!
This article originally appeared in Renewal Mnistries’ September 2023 newsletter.