Normal is not the life I want to lead. Don’t get me wrong, I am an average American living a pretty typical life, but “normal” is not the standard that I like to set for who I am and the things that I do. About two weeks ago, I was sitting in a local coffee shop, and I noticed a group of three women sitting at a table next to me. They were chatting about their lives, children, and marriages (we were sitting pretty close to each other, so it was hard not to hear what they were speaking about. I promise I’m not a creepy stalker!), and during the course of the conversation, one of the women said something that struck a chord with me. She had brought up how a friend of hers was religious, but in a “normal person” kind of a way. The Mass readings recently have often been from the book of the Acts of the Apostles and, being as Easter has just recently passed, we see St. Peter and the Apostles spreading the Gospel after Pentecost. With such powerful witnesses to Christ’s redemptive love as St. Peter on the brain, I couldn’t help but sit there and think about how Jesus does not call us to be “normal”. In Acts chapters 4 and 5, the apostles had been arrested on several occasions for preaching and performing miracles in the Name of Jesus. The Sanhedrin was certainly not too happy about the work of the Apostles, and they demanded that Peter and the Apostles stop doing just that (Acts 4:18). Peter and the Apostles refused. In fact, it was impossible for them not to speak in Jesus’ Name (Acts 4:20) now that they had been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and had been witnesses to Jesus’ saving Passion and resurrection. They could no longer settle for a normal, timid faith. They were now emboldened by the Holy Spirit. They were locked and loaded.
Taking a step back, I don’t think that the woman in the coffee shop meant anything negative by what she said about her friend, I think she just felt a certain amount of social pressure to phrase it like that. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but think that I don’t want a religion of “normal” people. I want a religion that is on fire and that is living, extraordinary, passionate, and impossible not to speak about or act upon. I want my faith to be seemingly crazy to “normal” people. The kind of crazy that intrigues the heart and draws people towards it. *Cue Hunter Hayes plug* As Hunter Hayes sings in his song “Crazy” (though about romantic love), “…the kind of crazy people wish that they could be”. I want this for my faith, not that people wish that they were me, but that they want Jesus and feel compelled to seek Him because they see Him moving and working through me. Peter and the Apostles in the short period of time after Pentecost were so on fire that they FILLED Jersualem with the Gospel message (Acts 5:28). I want a fiery faith like that, a faith of the front lines. I won’t settle for the mundane, fit-in-with-everybody-else faith. We see in chapter 7, St. Stephen becomes the first martyr for the Christian faith. He was willing to die to proclaim Christ as Lord rather than live a long life denying the Truth of Christ. This kind of a death does not come from a self-pride of ones own opinions, it comes from love of the Truth. Following the example of Christ, Stephen forgave his murderers as they were stoning him (Acts 7: 59-60). This is not a “normal person” faith. This is the faith that Christ desires for us, that we long for Christ above all things, including life itself.
St. Peter, St. Paul, the Apostles, St. Stephen, St. John the Baptist, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Padre Pio, St. Maria Goretti, St. Anthony de Padua, Pope St. John Paul II, St. Joseph, countless martyrs, and of course the Blessed Virgin Mary are just a few of the many, many examples of people who lived out their love for Jesus in a pure, radical, and abnormal way. They radiated Christ and they didn’t care if it appeared to others that they loved Jesus too much. Some of them may have lived “normal” or “typical” lives, but there was nothing “normal” or “typical” about their love for God and for others. The way in which they expressed that love to others demonstrated that. Let this be me and let this be you. This is my prayer, that none of us would settle for “normal” faith, but that we would allow our hearts to be set aflame by the Maker of the stars. Amen and God Bless.
Scripture on Fiery Faith:
Pretty much all of the Acts of the Apostles, but the chapters I spooke about in this post are found in the range of chapters 3-7