I Call You Friends

Deacon Blog                                                            June 2, 2019

I Call you Friends

How often do we just sit and contemplate Jesus as a friend and brother? I know I’ve read this passage from John’s Gospel (15:12-15) a thousand times and never really spent any quality meditation on its meaning. The death and actions of Kendrick Castillo at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Co. prompted me to spend time trying to understand Jesus’ full meaning of this passage. To find the context, this verse is part of a long discourse where Our Lord is explaining our identity and relationship with our Heavenly Father and it begins in ch. 13 and continues through ch. 16. I have had a lot of folks come to me and ask how they can find purpose and direction in their lives and then we read of an 18-yr. old who understood this so profoundly that he gave his life for his friends, without hesitation. Many of us have spent decades “pursuing” Christ and have never come close to this expression of faith. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. Not that we have to all die for others, but that we place the highest value on sacrifice for others… willing the good of another over ourselves.  I really encourage everyone to carefully reread these chapters for they are some of the most profound and meaningful verses in Sacred Scripture. The message is our identity as humble servants, our cooperation with the Holy Spirit, our relationship to this world, encountering sorrow, and the peace that is ours when we are faithful. And again, following up on last week, this peace is not a “thing” but a level of understanding that reveals itself through our response to Jesus. It has given me a renewed energy for my service to GOD.

Kendrick Castillo, if you are not aware, was a young man days away from graduating high school. He was a very devoted Catholic and committed, active member of Knights of Columbus Council #4844. According to his parents, his mission in life was the welfare of others and it shows in the smile and gleam in his eyes. How does a young person this age come to this understanding? How, in a moment of such importance, did he discover the presence of GOD within him and respond as we all should? This is “real time” action with consequences. Good parenting is part of this answer, the role of the Church in his life is another factor. Some might say “Yeah but he died” in the process. We all die in the process. None of us “gets out alive”, but a few of us discover the truth of GOD’s LOVE. GOD’s desire for us, Agape (desiring the best for another), is the Holy Spirit living within our hearts, souls, and minds. Kendrick did die in his service, but many others were saved because of what he did. All this event is missing is a wooden cross perched on a hill.

This event has really galvanized my perception (and hopefully expression) of discipleship. I think it (along with the scripture passages) will affect you as well. In a recent interview John Castillo and his wife Maria finished their comments with the statement, “He’s with his true Father”, and all I could do was weep. This (heaven) is what we desire, in the end, but getting “there” is the journey we were created for. Whatever the path we are asked to walk. In Kendrick’s case, he was asked to block a shooter’s aim from reaching other students… and he responded. We might think to ourselves, “I would probably do the same thing in that situation”. But… my thought is, we reluctantly (or not at all) seek ways to help people even when it doesn’t require our lives. Kendrick did what that moment asked of him because that’s how he lived every other moment of his life. Can you imagine his reception into heaven? This is the “Saving Private Ryan” event that we are all called to in our own way. It may be an expression of kindness to someone when we are feeling busy, it may be forgoing a vacation to help someone financially, it just may be living with less, materially, to help fund the work of the Church. Sacrifice is the key word, and our LORD went to the furthest extreme to model for us the example of what we should be willing to do…for HIM.  So did Kendrick, and so should we, in various efforts, if we profess to love Jesus as HIS disciples.

This is the mission of the Church, eternally. Bringing the message of GOD’s love for us, the Gospel, to every corner of the earth is a mandate to “love as GOD has loved us” … first. This is what the Church exists for. This is what we exist for as the Body of Christ. It isn’t just about our personal comfort or safety… or security. It is about every part of Christ’s Body. It is about trusting in HIM.  Kendrick knew this, somehow, at his young age. I can’t even imagine the sorrow his folks feel, my mind will not allow me to go there, but what I do know is that Kendrick’s life is an example of kindness and selflessness that could change the world. John Castillo said his son would not wish harm on anyone, including his killers, and all I could think of was “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. What greater glory can we give to GOD than this? How can we not be inspired to grow in our own Faith? If you get a moment, I highly recommend that you read an article in the Denver Catholic newspaper dated May 25-June 7, 2019. The article is titled “STEM shooting hero remembered for his unwavering kindness and faith”. It is available online at www.denvercatholic.org or on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/denvercatholic

Are you looking for meaning and purpose for your life? Imitate Kendrick Castillo and you’ll have life in abundance.

A Blessed and Peace Filled Easter Season to All

Comments, Questions, Random Thoughts?                deaconmike@gunnisoncatholic.org

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