Admonish the Sinner: George Miller comes ‘Full Circle’ in reaching out to young adults

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George Miller is able to speak the truth in love to young people struggling with addiction because he himself knows from personal experience what their battles — and illusions — are. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
George Miller is able to speak the truth in love to young people struggling with addiction because he himself knows from personal experience what their battles — and illusions — are. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Practical ways to ‘Admonish the Sinner’
In recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, every month The Catholic Sun will feature a “Missionary of Mercy” who ­exemplifies one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy.
In recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, every month The Catholic Sun will feature a “Missionary of Mercy” who ­exemplifies one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy.
  • Pray for the person’s conversion
  • Practice humility
  • Approach with compassion and sensitivity
  • Avoid pettiness
  • Practice what you preach
  • Refuse to make excuses for addictive/destructive behavior
  • Visit Fullcircleprogram.com for more

To the uninformed, admonishing the sinner may sound like a holier-than-thou Pharisee casting judgement, but in reality, it involves an awareness of one’s own brokenness and need of repentance. It’s about lovingly calling someone to conversion, encouraging those who are trying to break free from sin and addiction.

George Miller is right in the thick of it. As someone who once battled drugs and alcohol in his own life, he knows reaching out to addicts and offering them help is a matter of life and death. He volunteers his time with Full Circle, a ministry of Tempe’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish that serves families with teens and adults struggling with substance abuse, eating disorders, pornography and other thorny issues. His involvement with Full Circle is a calling he said, something he would do even if he weren’t working full time at a residential treatment facility for adolescents.

“The mission is to provide an alternative to that way of life,” Miller said. “We don’t identify through a problem or through a specific issue. We identify around a common solution.” That solution is something the program terms “enthusiastic sobriety.” It’s a way to find freedom and happiness without mind-altering chemicals or other problem behavior. Ultimately, it’s the way back
to God.

“The most powerful tool at my disposal is identifying as a fellow sinner,” Miller said. He tells young people of his own struggle, how it derailed his college studies and led his parents to stage an intervention.

“I’m able to say, ‘Been there, done that, and here’s your problem,’” Miller said. “That’s totally different than, ‘I read that in a book somewhere’ or ‘This is what they say in my church.’ No. It’s, ‘I’ve lived that and it doesn’t work.’” In other words, the same kind of thing he needed to hear when he was stuck in his addiction at age 21.

“I had loving parents who stood up to me and put their foot down,” Miller said. “When they said, ‘This is it. You’re getting help, or else,’ I knew they loved me because they were not going to accept my wrong behavior.” These days, he sees volunteering with Full Circle as part of the healing process God provided him. Each time he sits down with someone who is struggling, he remembers that someone once helped him.

Admonishing the sinner, Miller acknowledged, is probably the least popular of the works of mercy because today’s culture champions moral relativism.

“We’re asked to turn a blind eye to sin at every turn,” Miller said. In his own conversion story, he came face to face with the question, “What need do I have of a Savior?” At the time, he didn’t see the need. It was the process of recognizing his faults and sins that led him to the understanding of a need for Jesus. Now, he shares that wisdom gained through pain with others.

“No one is beyond hope, no one is irredeemable,” Miller said. “Recovery is always possible; change is always possible. Grace is available for anyone, anywhere, anytime no matter how sick or bad they have been. With God, all things are possible.

“You have to have people on your side, people who get it and who have been there.”

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