By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published June 17, 2004
Bishop Sam Jacobs told the Catholic young adults at “REVIVE!” it is all about love—loving Jesus Christ without reservation.
“Don’t come to God with a thimble and say, ‘Give me a thimbleful of love.’ Don’t come to God with a cup and say, ‘Give me a cupful of love.’ Don’t come to God with a bucket and say, ‘Give me a bucketful of love.’ Come to God with your whole being and say, ‘Lord, I want it all. Give it to me, that I may be one with you now and forever,’” he said with tender encouragement.
“What can motivate someone to follow Jesus Christ unless they fall in love with him?” he asked as hundreds of young adults, from college-age to 20- and 30-year-olds, took part in a special evening YAM track June 11 as part of the 2004 Eucharistic Congress.
Warmed by the music provided by Jon Ferguson and the REVIVE Band, the evening at the Georgia International Convention Center was energetic and full of praise at the beginning, and it concluded with a profound time of adoration as each person listened to the Lord in the silence of his heart.
Bishop Jacobs, who leads the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La., and has been a preacher in the Catholic charismatic renewal, and at Steubenville conferences for the past several decades, said he has learned he still needs to speak his love for Christ out loud and that he is still striving to grow in union with God.
“God has taught me that if I love him, I must say it. When I get up in the morning, I say, ‘Jesus, I love you. I really, really love you.’ Does he need to hear it? No, I need to hear it. I need to hear that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.”
Jesus is the pattern to show imperfect humans how to live in love with God the Father, he said. “God wants you to know how you can live in relationship with him . . . and that it is not impossible. God will give us the grace, but we have to want that . . . We are not perfect, yet we can live in union with God. ”
Conversion is only “the beginning of the journey, ” he said, using the example of Peter who followed Christ during his public ministry, but only after the resurrection speaks as one who loves Jesus passionately.
“God is revealing to us unless we fall in love with him, we cannot experience this union in Christ Jesus . . . We get to a point in union where we fall in love with Jesus Christ. Nothing matters but Jesus Christ,” Bishop Jacobs said.
“(God’s) not put off by our unworthiness, by our past life. He says, ‘I love you.’ Jesus was receptive to the Father’s love. Jesus was so receptive he was able to return love. That is the love God is looking for in each of our lives. He has so much to give us. He can’t give it to us unless we open our hearts.”
The bishop said he knows he has not nearly reached the intimacy with God of the saints, reflected so clearly in the life of someone like Mother Teresa. But, he said, “I desire it—that union with Jesus Christ—because I know he alone can make a difference in my life.”
He and Paul George, the evening’s emcee, prayed one by one over seven or eight people who came forward at the bishop’s invitation to give their lives to Christ for the first time.
After he spoke, the bishop led adoration, entering the room with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance, and later carrying the Blessed Sacrament to each section of the room, stopping to make the sign of the cross in blessing over all the participants who knelt in prayer.
“It seemed as if people came open and willing to receive Christ,” said Mike Judge, a leader of the Spirit and Truth young adult prayer group meeting at Kennesaw State University. “It was great to see Bishop Sam call people forward who had not given their life to Christ.”
Lisa Fiamingo, co-founder of Spirit and Truth, which has spread to a number of other locations in the archdiocese and elsewhere, said, “I think God wants all of his children with him. At events like this I believe he is saying, ‘Bring them to me in a safe place. Let me love them.’”
The first speaker of the evening, Jason Evert, a national Catholic speaker to young adults and youth, told of his journey from surfboarding in California to the realization that he was a hyperactive, restless person, hopping from the sounds of the car radio to the distractions of the Internet, who did not know his own faith.
Challenged by a street preacher, he began to study the Bible and the Church Fathers. His encounter with the message and presence of Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day in Denver 10 years ago changed his life.
“He would say, ‘I am inviting you to be saints’ and something in me would respond,” Evert said. “I love the Holy Father.”
Touching upon the depth of Catholic treasures available for the busy lives of young adults, he pointed to the communion of saints, “living and active and ready to intercede at any given moment.”
“When we are driving to work on Monday morning, the whole court of heaven is waiting to intercede for us,” he said. “These are not just dead role models. This is the beauty of the body of Christ in the Catholic Church.”
The sacrament of reconciliation is an opportunity “to humble yourselves, to recognize your imperfections,” Evert said. “Watch the people’s faces as they go into the sacrament and watch their faces as they come out of the sacrament . . . All God says to us tonight is ‘Come, welcome home. I’ve been waiting for you.’”
He encouraged participants to reset their alarm clocks and spend 10 minutes every morning and evening “in intimate conversation with Christ” and to end the day with an examination of conscience. “Make this a bookend for your day.”
“The Holy Father expects great things of us,” he concluded, and he is sending youth and young adults to evangelize “a very tough generation.”
“Let us not let him down,” Evert said.
Ann Blasick, the YAM program coordinator for the archdiocese, said the evening fulfilled her hope for a time of worship with this community of people who have so much in common, and she was pleased to see the wide range of ages and new faces.
“My hope was to expose more young adults to adoration and to worship in community. It is so powerful to be with hundreds of people worshiping and praising Jesus,” she said.
“We had a lot of college students, a lot of people in their 20s, and that is the future of YAM. It was a nice mix. I know a lot of couples who came as dates, which is kind of cool.”
The YAM community is made up of people who are “like brothers and sisters to each other,” she said. “It is very intertwined: people holding each other up in hard times and helping each other grow toward Christ. This doesn’t exist in many other cities. People will move to Atlanta because of this community . . . I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to be a part of this.”
Ferguson, who played despite being ill in preceding days, said, “It is just exciting to see how these people gathered together to glorify God.”
The other musicians were Megan Wilhelm and Rich Dittus, vocalists, Greg Ferrara, electric guitar, Louis Edwards, bass, Kent Kelsey, drums, Keith Nicolosi, percussion, and Kevin McCarron, keyboard.
Keegan McDermott, 18, a St. Pius X High School graduate who will be going to the University of Georgia this fall, said, “Seeing the whole Catholic community from all of Atlanta together to worship the Lord is an incredible experience.”
James Curtin, a 28-year-old engineer, came from Grant, Ala., to attend “REVIVE! ” and hoped to make the contacts to begin a young adult ministry in his parish. His brother and sister-in-law, very active in young adult ministry in Albuquerque, N.M., also came.
“I’ve always been active in the church. After high school I went into the Army. I realized at any given moment my life could be on the line. I decided to stick with my faith,” Curtin said. “It is really the building block of my life.”