The Gospel According to You
What is the Gospel according to you? My first spiritual director asked me this question once and I did not like it. "The Gospel according to" is a phrase that belongs to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not Jack. But my spiritual director, he's a wise man and he pushed me a bit with a series of questions. He asked me things like, "Has God ever moved in your life? Is the good news of God's redemption something that's old and irrelevant or timeless and ever new? Do you want other people to know, love, and serve God?" I kept answering, "Yes" to all these questions and he finally, after all the questions, he said, "I want you to write the Gospel according to Jack Beers and in it, I want you to write all the moments you can remember in which you experienced God moving in your life. Remember it won't be about you. It will be about God and what He's done in your life."
It turns out that accepting His invitation allowed me to have one of the most meaningful spiritual exercises of my life. And I can say that for two reasons. The first is that it is actually impossible to write your story, focusing on the times that God has come through for you or has moved you or has spoken to you, without increasing in faith. Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying, "No amount of darkness can extinguish a single light." I love that quote and I think it applies here really well. Because writing down my own story of encounters with Jesus and my relationship with Him has been like a light that no difficulty or trial has been able to fully extinguish. When things go wrong - and I don't just mean a little wrong or lightly wrong, I mean, really, really wrong - and they have at different times in my life, knowing my own history and knowing that God has never left me to my own devices before, it's actually given me a strength I didn't quite know I had.
And this should make sense, right? Because our Jewish brothers and sisters, the foundation of our Christian faith, they incorporate history into their spirituality better than anyone. That's our history, too. We've got the Feast of Passover celebrated every year as a reminder that no matter how bad things can get, God will always be there for his people. Maybe not in the way that we want or in the timing we want but if he came through then, we can act with courage and faith, believing he will come through again now. Writing your own history and revisiting it from time to time, it will unlock something within you. A strength, a boldness, a faith, the likes of which you probably didn't realize you had.
The second reason you should write your story down is, you never know who or when your story may be needed to inspire and encourage another person. I can't tell you the time of the place or the person but there will be multiple opportunities in your life for you to share a piece of your story as encouragement to another person. And this act is actually essential for the Salvation of humanity. It is loving our neighbor. As C. S. Lewis once wrote, "We all carry the weight of glory," meaning we have a degree of responsibility for the Salvation of each other. And when my moment comes, when the person comes into my life who needs to hear a piece of my story, I want to be aware of my own story enough to share it. So that the Holy Spirit can do its thing and, hopefully, nudge another person along in their journey. So, in the Spirit of St. Luke, I'm going to share just one of the moments that God has profoundly moved in my life in the hopes, as Luke writes, "that you may know the truth about the things you have been told about God and Jesus and the working of the Holy Spirit."
So, my dad is Jewish and my mom Episcopalian so, of course, I became Catholic. Right? At 18, with no real sense of my own spirituality, I found myself at a Catholic Mass for the first time, chasing a girl I really liked. So, I went to Mass for the first time and to be honest, my first Mass, well, it didn't exactly move me and we'll just say that. But it was Winter and she'd forgotten her gloves in the Church. And so, I actually went back inside by myself, alone in the Church, to retrieve them. And there something happened to me. Something that took me nearly 15 years to be able to describe. During Lent a few years ago, I picked up this novel that helped me learn how to describe what happened to me. It was a book from a friend and the book is called The Robe. And there's the scene in the book where this character, Demetrius, is present for Jesus entering Jerusalem a few days before his death, and the author writes how the eyes of Jesus and Demetrius met in that moment. And in the eyes of Jesus, Demetrius saw who he could be. When I read it, I thought, "That is it. That's what happened to me." There in that small country church, all by myself, I suddenly became aware that I wasn't who I could be and that there was a life and a version of myself waiting for me far greater than who and how I was living. And from that day on by some grace, every time I step into a Catholic Church where that little red light is on, my eyes seem to meet the eyes of Jesus and I feel simultaneously the pain of knowing I'm not who I could be. And yet at the same time, the most inspiring hope that with Jesus' help, I can still get there.
So, what is the gospel according to you? Find yourself a quiet space where you won't be bothered and give yourself a good amount of time. Close your eyes. Say a short prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to spark your memory and remind you of the moments, big and small, that God has moved in your life, and then just start writing sentences down. Could be bullet points. Could be long sentences, short sentences. It doesn't matter. You don't need to write anything excessive and you don't need to be a writer or turn it into a memoir or anything along those lines. It is my hope and my prayer that this exercise does for you what it has done for me and far more.