Reflections for the New Year
by Dave Quintana
of the Word, The Power of a Word
The Word became flesh some
2,000 plus years ago, and God speaks still today. He does not keep silent.
He speaks to and through simple men and women like you and me, and his
Word is living and active. And so I’ve dedicated my life to being a Servant
of the Word, and these meditations are an attempt to share with others
some of the words that God has spoken to me.
Dare To Be Great
I’m not much into politics, and
won’t share many of my political viewpoints with you, but I love this quote
by Teddy Roosevelt: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious
triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor
spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray
twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
And David said to Saul,
"Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight
with this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go
against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth, and
he has been a man of war from his youth"… and David girded his sword
over his armor, and he tried in vain to go, for he was not used to them.
Then David said to Saul, "I cannot go with these; for I am not used to
them." And David put them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, and
chose five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in his shepherd's
bag or wallet; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
1Samuel 17:32-33, 39-40
I suppose all stories, certainly
all good stories, start “in the beginning”, so that’s what we’ll do this
week – start my story “in the beginning.” Like most good Catholic families,
we went to church every Sunday, and like most (good?) Catholic boys I made
it a point to complain about it every week. I suppose I admired people’s
faith (especially Gramma Q’s and my mother’s), but it didn’t connect with
me very much. It was in high school (secondary school) when I met a young
(23 or so) guy from church who seemed to be really convinced regarding
the truth of Christianity when faith began to come alive. I became convinced
that all the things that I’d heard all my life were true, and if they were
true, it seemed obvious that they should make a difference for how I lived
my life. And so the journey of faith began and my life began to be transformed.
Where did your journey begin? Is your faith fully alive?
I appeal to you therefore,
brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be
conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable
Romans 12:1-2 RSV
Conquered in Heart
Part two of my story really turned
my world upside-down (which by the way is right-side up for Christians
– just think about it!). Still in high school, and away on a retreat in
the mountains of California, God came to me in a powerful, tangible way.
The simplest and best way to describe it is as being completely overwhelmed
by the love and mercy and goodness of God, and being overcome by a burning
desire to love God and others in return. Everything seemed as nothing compared
to being able to know and love the Lord. o this day, I can easily
picture the setting and the sentiment of this life-changing and life-directing
encounter. Has the Lord turned your world upside-down? How has he
worked to conquer your heart?
But whatever gain I had,
I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as
loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For
his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse,
in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness
of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the
righteousness from God that depends on faith.
Called to Community
I could still point out to you the
place where I was walking along the sidewalk by the University of Michigan
Union (I went to U of M in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA) as my freshmen year
wound to a close where I felt so clearly God inviting me and calling me
to community life. I had been participating in The Word of God community
for most of a year and was very attracted to it as a group of people radically
living out their Christian lives and seeking to make a difference for God
in the world. While I deeply desired that, I also found aspects of community
life that I didn’t particularly like or even that turned me off. Pondering
everything and pondering nothing that day, I again experienced the Lord
in a life-directing way. God is alive, and he has a plan and purpose for
each of us. While it isn’t always fun and can be horribly scary, embracing
his call and his will is the only way to live life to the full. In what
ways has God drawn you to a “community of believers?” In what ways has
God shown you “there are no Lone Rangers in this Western?”
But you are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare
the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous
light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had
not received mercy but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10 RSV
Contact with Servants
of the Word
Suffice it to say that my first encounter with “the brothers” was not
overly positive. A bunch of guys all in one house? Living together? Kinda
strange if you ask me! But that perspective didn’t last long, and as I
got to know a few of the brothers, I found the idea of giving oneself fully
to God, sacrificing everything, and living single for the Lord a very attractive
one. It was certainly far, far from anything that I might have expected
or that anyone might have expected for me, but it sure made sense to consider
it if I was looking to live my life for the Lord as fully as possible.
To my great surprise, another very significant life-directing aspect of
life began to fall into place. In what ways has the Lord surprised you
in the call he has placed upon your life?
Peter began to say to him, "Lo, we have left everything and
followed you." Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has
left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands,
for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now
in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children
and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
Mark 10:28-30 RSV
For a guilty criminal, receiving the judge’s verdict “life sentence”
is about the worse thing he could possibly hear. For one declared innocent
by the Father who sent his only beloved Son to pay the price for our debt,
“life sentence” is a call and an invitation that is like sweet music to
the ears. Early on, I told the Lord that whatever I could do to serve him
I would do. Of course I didn’t really know what I was saying at the time
– but God certainly did! And he took me up on it. The greatest joy
in life is to be called and created for something, and to embrace that
and live it as fully and completely as you can! Have you yet embarked
upon a road of 1-1 discipleship? How might the Lord want you to “forget
what lies behind” and “press on for what lies ahead?”
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect;
but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his
own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing
I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ
Philippians 3:12-14 RSV
“I Want to Know
More of Your Love”
It was Good Friday and I was praying before a cross in our local parish
in San Jose, Costa Rica. It was the early 1990’s and I was doing campus
outreach work there alongside some other Servants of the Word brothers.
I loved my life, I loved my work, and I loved the people that I was serving.
And yet, as I pondered the love of God for man, made manifest supremely
in Christ dying for us on a cross, I found myself praying “Lord, I want
to know more of your love.” I can still almost hear the words I found echoing
in my being that day, “Are you sure?” Something to the effect of, “Do you
really know what you are asking for? Are you really ready for what you
are asking for?” That is, “Look out!” As sincere as I was that day, the
Lord seemed more sincere still. So I nobly responded, “ughh, well, ughhh…
let me get back to you on that!” At any rate, after a bit more prayer and
reflection, I again poured out my heart to the Lord, “Yes Lord, of course
Lord, yes, I do want to know more of your love.” And by his grace, over
these many years I have come to know more of his love. It has led me along
unimaginable and incredible paths, and brought me indescribable joys and
pains, both of which at times seemed unbearable. Would you like to know
more of his love? Are you sure? Ask him for it.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and
we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
1 John 3:16 RSV
A Guiding Vision
Many years ago while praying, I had a picture (vision?) of a group
of young people, 50 or so in number, singing, worshipping God with arms
upraised. Then, I saw the Lord begin to walk up and down among them, much
the way an usher taking up a collection would, in order to take up an offering.
But the Lord wasn’t just looking for a few spare coins, or even a few large
bills – he was taking up a freewill
offering of lives, of young lives, for himself. The scene engaged me at
a profound level, and I felt (knew) that in some way my life was to be
dedicated to helping him take up that offering… and it has been. And so
here I am many years later, still walking (and flying) up and down, still
passing the basket and still taking up the freewill offering of young lives!
Then the heads of fathers' houses made their freewill offerings,
as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and
of hundreds, and the officers over the king's work. They gave for the service
of the house of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold,
ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze, and
a hundred thousand talents of iron. And whoever had precious stones gave
them to the treasury of the house of the LORD, in
the care of Jehi'el the Gershonite.Then the people rejoiced because these
had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to
the LORD; David the king also rejoiced greatly.
1 Chronicles 29:6-9 RSV
day!” What a great challenge. What a great way to greet the
dawning of a new day. Seize the day, each day, everyday, while it is today.
Robin Williams, as a boarding school teacher in the movie “Dead Poet’s
Society”, welcomes the new recruits into the great hall. The display cabinets
are filled with photos and awards of those that have gone before them.
He tells the new arrivals to look in to the photos, and to listen … and
then he walks up behind them whispering “carpe… carpe diem … carpe diem!”
My sentiments exactly. May we look into the eyes and lives of those that
have gone before us and may they whisper to us and shout to us, “Carpe
diem”! Seize the day!”
Command and teach these things. Let no one despise your youth,
but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith,
in purity. Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching,
to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic
utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you. Practice
these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.
Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing
you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Timothy 4:11-16 RSV
Quintana is an elder of the Servants
of the Word, a missionary brotherhood of men living single for the
Lord. He is also a regional coordinator for the Sword
of the Spirit in Europe and the Middle East. He currently lives in