It was in Antioch

Several years ago my cousins and I went on a backpacking trip to South Manitou Island. Within the first hour on the island I decided it was a good idea, redhead white boy that I am, to go lay in the sun. I was out for about 30 minutes or so and quickly realized that I had the worst sunburn that has probably ever existed in human history. My entire body from head to toe was bright red. This was one of the most painful experiences, having a terrible sunburn and having to walk miles with a backpack on constantly rubbing against my skin.

I grew up with all the ginger jokes as a kid. White boy can’t tan, things like that. I always thought they were funny and went along with them, but here on the island, I started hoping beyond hope that my sunburn would turn into a tan. I would be the first fair-skinned Irish lad to have a proper tan. By the time we made it off the island my burn had peeled and actually did turn into a tan. I was more excited than Winnie the Pooh stuck in the honey tree. The only problem was, it only stayed tan for about a day and turned right back to a white that could blind you if you weren’t careful.

I went from one extreme to the other. From a burn that rivaled most lobsters, to a white that could blend in with a polar bear. Living right in the middle for that one day was glorious, my 24-hour tan. Today in the first reading we hear that the word Christian is first used in Antioch. I have been thinking a lot about the world lately. I must admit, even someone as optimistic as me has been looking around very discouraged. My heart breaks seeing good friends label each other over social media from one extreme to the other. I have been thinking a lot about what it even means to be a disciple, to be a Christian. I think the answer comes from this burn I experienced as a kid.

One extreme was no good, the other extreme was not everything it was cracked up to be, right in the middle was a perfect balance. Jesus is all about balance. When he speaks to the woman caught in adultery he first tells her of his love for her, then tells her to sin no more. A balance of justice and mercy. Today, I think we are forgetting about balance. The Christian is one who follows Christ. Christ is perfectly just and merciful, perfectly God and man, perfectly Lord and servant.

Whenever we start to slip into extremes or label other people with them, we forget love. Love does not divide, EVER. Nathalie and I are totally different, but our love brings us together in the perfect balance. We need to remember this, especially today when our country and world seem so divided. Instead of immediately jumping to one extreme or the other with people on social media, let’s try listening. We may be surprised at how much we all actually agree on. I hope we can all at least agree that we all deserve love. God Bless!

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Tommy Shultz is Director of Evangelization for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative and the founder of Rodzinka Ministries. In these roles, he is committed to bringing all those he meets into a deeper relationship with Christ. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. With a degree in Theology from Franciscan University, Tommy hopes to use his knowledge to help all people understand the beauty of The Faith.