| By Pete Burak

Why Grow and Go?

Anyone who’s played sports, pursued music or developed a new personal skill or trait has probably heard it said, “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse!” While overly simplistic, this motivational quote speaks to a human truth; stagnation or lethargy does not produce things that are new, better and transformed. Not surprisingly, this also applies to our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24, St. Paul compares our journey to heaven to a foot race, “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.” The takeaway here is not that only one of us is getting into heaven, but the same mentality and disciplines of training hard, moving quickly and crossing the finish line apply to our Christian journey. We then are faced with the question, “How do we run?” The Church provides 2,000 years of insights, inspiration and teachings on what it looks like for us to “run,” but I want to boil it down to the two fundamental invitations given to all baptized Catholics: the universal call to holiness and the universal call to mission. Just as a healthy runner utilizes both legs, holiness and mission must be utilized in tandem to achieve maximum speed and ensure finishing the course.

We are called to be holy because God is holy, and through the death and resurrection of his Son, we have access, through baptism, to God’s Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts, we receive his power to transform us from broken, fearful and sinful people to beloved, chosen and free sons and daughters of God. As it states in one of the landmark documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, “Indeed (Jesus) sent the Holy Spirit upon all men that he might move them inwardly to love God with their whole heart and their whole soul, with all their mind and all their strength and that they might love each other as Christ loves them.” (40) The Great Commandment (you shall love the God with all your heart …) is the root of our call to holiness. Simply put, we are called to grow. Grow in love, grow in power, grow in understanding, grow in freedom and grow into the body of Christ. In our race toward heaven, our first leg is the “grow” leg.

Our second and equally important leg is our “go” leg. When Jesus delivered the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”, he wasn’t just talking to his disciples at the time, but to all who would follow him. Pope Benedict XVI confirms this in Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord): “The mission of proclaiming the word of God is the task of all of the disciples of Jesus Christ based on their baptism. No believer in Christ can feel dispensed from this responsibility.” Jesus understood that growing equips us to go, and once we go, we realize how much we still need to grow. Jesus challenges us to enter into his mission to work for the salvation of everyone around us. Going sharpens our own beliefs as we share the story of what Christ has done for us. What a wonderful joy it is to not only be brought into greater union with Jesus, but to enthusiastically share that relationship with others!

Pete Burak is the director of i.d.9:16. He has a master's degree in theology, and is a frequent speaker at events for youth and young adults.