“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” — John 4:13-14
St. Teresa of Calcutta is well known for her dedication to quench the thirst of Jesus, who, at the pinnacle of His passion on the cross, declared His love for souls as an insatiable thirst.
Despite her rigorous work in the apostolate (can you imagine doing outreach on the streets of Calcutta?!), St. Teresa took time away from her mission to regularly make retreats with her sisters — to re-center themselves on Christ and to encounter Him so that they could better see Him in the poor.
Now that I’m back on campus (or Grounds, if you happen to be at the University of Virginia), it is easy for the daily grind to cause me to fall into complacency, relying on my own effort rather than on God’s grace. How often do I think, “I must have it together as a committed missionary disciple” — but in reality, I am just exhausted and thirsty for the same water I’m trying to give to others.
As a committed disciple of Christ, you probably have a lot on your plate. Classes are starting, and you may still be putting together your schedule. Commitments to people and organizations require time, and living out these commitments without taking a step back to receive can cause us to get to the point of running on empty. Remember, even Jesus retreated to the mountain to speak intimately with His Father throughout His ministry to receive what He needed in the Trinity of life-giving Love.
You might think that you don’t need to go to SEEK. Oftentimes as a student, I would look at conference ads and think, “Oh, that would be good for someone who doesn’t know Christ, but that’s not for me.”
Yet we are fooling ourselves if we think that, just because we know where the living water is, we don’t have to go back for our own nourishment. The more we are aware of our deepest thirst for the nourishment only Eternal Love can offer, the more we are able to see that same thirst in our brothers and sisters.
If I’ve learned anything as a full-time missionary, it’s that I need a daily renewal of my faith. As Catholics, we are a people of continual conversion. The wellspring of God’s grace is freely given, but we require frequent journeys back to the well to receive it. Like St. Teresa of Calcutta, who didn’t always feel God’s presence, we can make an effort to come back to Him as the source, not only for our own benefit but for the benefit of those souls whom we encounter on a daily basis.
Are we willing to give up a couple days of our time to be in solidarity with thousands of others to seek one God?
Tim Barham, a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, wanted to discern God’s plan for him after college. After attending a FOCUS interview weekend and turning down an offer to be a missionary, he went to SEEK2015 to pray over his decision.
“At SEEK, the first thing that blew me away was the thousands of people there living in virtuous friendships, desiring the best for each other through becoming holier. That profoundly changed my perspective — and it made me think, ‘Wow, this is how the world should be and the world isn’t now,’” said Tim. “I wanted to live in that experience of heaven on earth.”
It was during adoration that Tim was able to bring his decision to prayer and encounter Jesus face to face in the Eucharist.
“It just cut me to the core,” he said. “I knew that I want what He has, and I’ll never have that until I say ‘yes.’ If I truly believe that [the Eucharist] is real, then every part of me should be running towards that. Who am I to say I can go through my life and be half-and-half or be lukewarm?”
For Tim, being in that unique community of believing college students helped him have the courage to say “yes” to God’s call for him to be a full-time missionary.
Similarly, Nicole Sheldon, a sophomore at University of Oklahoma, decided to go to SEEK not knowing what to expect. After going to a talk on confession, she felt a pull to go back to the sacrament for the first time in thirteen years. It was there that she encountered Christ’s love for her at the well, and she brought it back to prayer in adoration.
“There were so many people there, but it felt like there were only two people in that room. I thought I was the only person in that room with Jesus,” said Nicole.
SEEK was a catalyst for her to delve into the truths of the faith and commit to living out her role as a missionary disciple on campus at OU. Now a senior, Nicole disciples others and leads a study, and she plans to go back to SEEK in 2017 for the nourishment she needs to continue to live out Christ’s call for her.
“If you are not sure about the Catholic Church or that Jesus even exists, if you give Him the tiniest chance to prove that He does, He absolutely will. And if you are already rooted in the Catholic faith, I would definitely go because you can go deeper,” she said.
Tim, now a full-time missionary at University of Southern California, is also going to SEEK2017 and can’t wait to bring others from USC with him.
“For someone on the steps of going — whether it be ‘I don’t have enough money’ or ‘I don’t know if this conference is for me’ — or for someone who is lukewarm in their faith, there is a place at SEEK for everyone because the Lord is so present there and He is present for each individual person,” said Tim.
My beloved friends in Christ: Go to SEEK! It is an opportunity to quench our thirst for Christ in communion with thousands of other disciples on the same mission. It is a glimpse of Heaven, a place where we can encounter the Church fully alive, pursue answers to our questions, share good music and go back to the well.
Will you come and seek with me?