Pope Benedict XVI recently designated the upcoming year, from October 11 of this to November 24 of 2013 as a Year of Faith. It begins on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church. It will conclude on the feast of Christ the King of next year.
Part of you might wonder, “Isn’t faith something we celebrate all the time? Why would he need to proclaim a special year for it?” I think the reason this year is needed is because “faith” has become a word that is losing its meaning. Because of a society and culture that is becoming increasingly indifferent and even hostile to faith, the average Catholic finds it more difficult to hold onto the unique message of the Good News of Jesus Christ. It becomes easier to think like society even where our faith tells us something different. “Faith” then becomes a private opinion, a matter of taste that should be hidden and not make others feel uncomfortable. (As I type this, the blog spell checker is telling me evangelization is not found in its dictionary!) When this happens, faith becomes an empty shell, easily crushed by the wave of popular opinion. Being from Europe, Pope Benedict has seen this firsthand as the areas that were once bastions of the Christian faith now have increasingly empty churches that witness to the changing landscape of faith.
What does Benedict see as our response? Here are some major questions that we can ask as a Church as as individual believers:
First, we are to examine our commitment to our faith. Is our relationship with Jesus the center of our life? Does it bring joy and enthusiasm to us to know that He loves us and is with us everyday? Without this commitment, we will inevitably put other things before God, and it will be impossible to grow in faith.
Secondly, do we have an understanding of what we believe about the nature of God and how he continues to guide us through the Church? This calls us to deepen our understanding of what we say we believe, to see that our beliefs are not irrational superstitions opposed to reason. Rather, faith compliments reason and opens it up to the realm of mystery. With respect to morality, it sets appropriate limits upon us that allows us to truly be free to do what is good.
Thirdly, do we keep this faith to ourselves or do we try to share this faith with others, both in how we live and in witnessing to others that this love is not just for a select few but for all people. As Catholics, many of us are not used to sharing our faith or talking about it, but if hide our faith, it will suffocate like a flame does when it is covered over.
Fourthly, do we practice charity to all? Our faith must also be expressed in concretely loving others as Jesus did and so we must exercise our faith through charity. Jesus constantly taught care for the least in society. If our faith is genuine, our charity will be too.
Here at St. Peter, we already have many opportunities to address these questions. We will try to provide additional opportunities of learning, fellowship, evangelization and service in order to reinvigorate our faith so that we can experience greater joy in our faith and so that we can share the Good News of the source of our joy with the world that is in desperate need of the love of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.