By Matthew D. Ruhl, SJ
Wednesday/October 25, 2017/St. Louis, Missouri
There is a Jewish saying that goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Certainly the plans made for my time in the States were upended with my brother’s passing and my own little health issue. But the two weeks I had planned to work for St. Martin’s and Belize 2020 while up north have not been interrupted. Last night, Belize 2020 hosted an informational evening at a Brew Pub for the young and the intelligent who have some interest in Belize 2020. I have been to breakfasts, lunches, and dinners; I have been speaking in classrooms and halls, all in an effort to spread the word. Tonight a fundraiser will be held at St. Louis University. In all this talking I have formulated an understanding of what a major part of Belize 2020 is about — the children of St. Martin’s.
During Hurricane Earl last year, I noticed the effects of the tidal surge as I cycled about the city. While knocking down many fences and walls, the tide dumped all kinds of smelly muck and refuse in Belize City. It did not take much imagination to see how a large tidal surge could really wreck a city. So this has become an image I use. Our children must navigate a terrible tide. So many of our children suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress; so many of our children in this English-speaking country are effectively illiterate; so many of our children come from homes that are socially and economically distressed. Our children must fight a terrible tide, and many are overwhelmed. We see the evidence of being overwhelmed by the number of funerals for the young we perform at Martin’s, and by the scores of our PSE examinations, and by gang involvement, and by teenage pregnancy. A major impulse of Belize 2020 is to help our children fight the terrible tide.
Belizeans from all walks are instrumental in the Belize 2020 effort. St. Martin’s parishioners have made significant contributions of time and dollars, St. John’s offering of scholarships to all our graduating boys is priceless; Cisco Construction’s waiving of management fees; the government’s waiving of import taxes for the floor at Swift Hall, the cooperation and encouragement from the Ministry of Education, the cooperation of our Lake Independence representative, the contributions of the local business community, the unbelievable support we have gotten from Catholic School Management, Belize NGO’s have committed to Martin’s programs, Rotary clubs from Belize joined Rotaries from the U.S. to make terrific donations to our school facilities and programs, and last but not least the Martin’s neighborhood itself has been entirely supportive and cooperative. A monetary value of all this support: priceless! All laboring to help our children fight the terrible tide. Ultimately, St. Martin de Porres is a Jesuit parish and Belize 2020 is a Jesuit program of colleagues from Belize and the U.S. coming together in service to the young and vulnerable.
As we slowly move into an investigation of Scripture, it is important to address some of the Scripturally-based expressions of faith that one finds in our Christian culture but not in the Catholic Faith, expressions that are at times even antagonistic to our Catholic Faith.
We hear the phrase “Born Again” somewhat regularly in Christian circles. There are even those who identify themselves as “Born Again Christians.” This phrase, of course, comes from the Gospel of John 3:3 wherein Jesus explains to Nicodemus that “. . . no one can see the kingdom unless they are born again.” The understanding of those who proclaim to be “born again” is the belief that a person has had a single, definitive, life-changing experience of Christ wherein that person knows they are saved; they are, “born again.” That is all fine, but Catholics see things decidedly differently.
In John 3:5 Jesus explains that being born again means being born of “water and Spirit;” in short, baptism. In baptism we are born into a lifelong relationship with Christ. When Catholics are baptized we embrace the belief that in our relationship with Christ we are constantly being born again and again and again and again and again and again. Every sunrise of our lives is a born again experience. Every insight that creates in us a deeper understanding of ourselves, creation, and God is a born again experience.
Every word, poem, art piece that inspires is a born again experience. Each moment in nature that causes awe is a born again experience. Every suffering is a birth pang, for we are constantly being renewed even in our suffering. Every Advent, Lent, Christmas, and Easter season is a born again experience. Every act of reconciliation or forgiveness is a born again moment. As Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan once sang, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” The notion that we are born again only once is absurd to Catholics.
So in sum, Catholics are never “Born Again.” We are joyously born again and again and again and again and again and again and again . . . .