The first talk written for Cursillo was the Study and Evangelization of Environments. On a Cursillo weekend it is the first talk on the third day. Environments as used in Cursillo or the other similar movements refers to "the combination of ideas and circumstances which are sustained by the persons who surround us."
In that talk we are given three steps to follow to win over an environment for Christ. First ourselves, we must develop our own personal relationship with God through prayer and study. Second, we are called to be true friends to others. We are called to live in a way that others see Christ in our actions. Then, finally, by walking our own close walk with Christ and bringing others to him, we can actually change the entire environment for Christ.
One of the environments we are all apart of is our church and our church family. When we are honest with ourselves we realize our church is a gathering of sinners who are striving to become saints.
Recently a friend of mine was sharing with me a problem he had in his family. He told me a story about his older brother. All of the siblings felt this one brother had handled the family trust, in his capacity as trustee, inappropriately. They felt he had put his own needs, wishes and priorities ahead of all of his siblings. They felt his actions were wrong and unchristian. That brother has always been a visible leader in his church community. The siblings felt his actions were hypocritical. The thinking went something like this - how can this brother act in this way and yet profess to be such a good Christian. Some of the siblings used this as a reason to stay away from the church. After all why would they want to be apart of a place where there was such hypocrisy?
This story is not unique to my friend. In fact, I would suggest we can all find ourselves in the story. I am sure there are many Sundays when we are at church when we see others there that we "just know" to be big sinners. Maybe we have witnessed their sinfulness. Perhaps they are self-centered; maybe we heard they cheated on their taxes; maybe we heard they cheated on their spouse; maybe they are one of the ones who send around or forward emails with inappropriate jokes or pornography; maybe we know that person had an abortion or they are living a gay lifestyle. In other words, somehow this person that we see in church has had their sins made public in some way.
How do we react? Are we one of the first to throw a stone? Do we gossip about these sinners we see in church? Shame on us if we do. Christ came to save the lost. The church should be full of sinners. In fact it is. EVERYONE in church is a sinner.
How would you feel if next week someone stepped up to the microphone and read off a list of all of your sins and short comings? I know you, like me, would be devastated. Let's just admit it, we all sin. Our sins are different, but nonetheless, we all sin. How does Jesus expect us to react to those who are also sinners? We are called to love the sinner and hate the sin.
Please join me this year in an effort to change the environment of each of our church communities. Let us create an environment where sinners feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, respected and apart of the community. Let's meet them in their sinfulness like Christ has met us in our own sinfulness. Next time someone says they don't go to church because it is full of hypocrites, remind them that no, it is simply full of sinner on a journey to hopefully one day be saints, by the grace of Almighty God.
Please take the time to print this out or write it down and insert your name and your sins in the appropriate blank spaces below. This is a prayer that I modified from Hosea 11: 1-9 that simply inserts us in the place of Israel.
The Lord says, when (your name) was a child, I love him/her and called him/her out of original sin through baptism as my son/daughter. But the more I called to him/her, the more he/she turned away from me. ( Your name) sacrificed to (list your most recurring sinfulness). Yet I was the one who taught (your name) to walk. I took (your name) up in my arms, but he/she did not acknowledge that i took care of him/her. I drew (your name) to me with affection and love. I picked him/her and held him/her to my cheek. I bent down to him/her and fed him/her. Through (list some of the many blessing in your life) I reached out to him/her. (Your name) refused to return to me. His/her (list of recurring sinfulness) ruled him/her. Destruction will sweep through his/her world. (List of recurring sinfulness) will destroy his/her family because (your name) does what he/she thinks best. (Your name) will cry out because of the yoke that is on him/her is too heavy, but I will not lift it from him/her.
But then God said
"How can I give you up (your name)? How can I abandon you? Could I ever destroy you? My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong. I will not punish you in my anger. I will not destroy you (your name). For I am God and not a mere human being. I the Holy One, am with you. I will not come to you in anger.
How does God react to our sinfulness? He offered up His only son to suffer and die on a cross for the redemption of our sins. Jesus rose on the third day to reunite us with the Father.
- How does Christ call us to react to the other sinners around is in church?
- How will you react to that call next week Sunday and all the Sundays to follow?
- Can our actions make the environment of our church communities more Christ like?