Monday, July 19, 2010

Top Ten Things that I have Learned in my Faith Journey

I want to start out with a loud and joyful expression: I love my Catholic Faith! I have been a life long Catholic, although I slipped away for a time in my twenties and thirties. My origins in Catholicism were steeped in the beauty, mystery and sacredness of the liturgy. I was an altar boy from as early as I can remember, 6 or 7 years old. The Mass (pre-Vatican II, the Tridentine or Roman Rite) was for a very young man an awesome life experience. The altar, where I was privileged to be present, was a sacred place and I had no doubts about that, none period. I loved our parish priests, they were extremely holy and intelligent men, and I felt that I was included in something very special, in Mass. ( by the way that is why I get so irritated when I see people walking around the altar wearing blue jeans, sandals, low cut dresses, dressed for slumming around on a Saturday morning etc.), but I have digressed here. In my life in the Faith I have discovered many wonderful things, so I have decided to list them here, in no particular order of priority, in the hope that perhaps a reader may explore these things or can share something that I perhaps have missed. Here we go:

10. That faith is a journey: and in some sense a Tinitarian journey - first, it is a personal journey that through, grace, life experiences, catechesis, we develop a relationship with God, connected is our relationship journey with the people we live with, family, friends, co-workers, fellow believers, the world community at large, and how I come to know God and grow in virtues will determine how these relationships grow. Like any journey one endeavors there are always times when one goes the wrong direction, runs into things, at times are lost, at times moves slowly, at time moves rapidly, has a clear path - in other words be patient with your Faith and with God, He knows what he is doing.

9. Tied to 10 is one's spiritual life. To grow spiritually one has to work at it, it is that simple! But of course it requires what most of us lack in the modern world - time away from things and time with our Creator. In the Ignatian spirituality - one asks am I moving towards God or away from Him.

8. We are all called to be holy. This is something that I have found in recent times to be a motivator for me. I guess its the competitiveness in me but it gives me something to strive for each and everyday. So when I awaken in the morning the question is not "what will get out of this day?" - the typical barometer by which we measure a good day or a bad day, but rather "how can I grow in holiness today?"

7. Humility opens the door to Christ into our hearts. A good axiom for this is " life is not about me" - remember He is God and I am not. St Paul wrote in his Letter to the Philippians, "Do nothing out of selfishness or conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves"

6. To live a holy and virtuous life requires self examination - St. Thomas Aquinas wrote the First Principle of the Natural Law which is self evident: Do good and avoid evil. We must subject our actions to answering the question are we doing good and by practicing and with God's grace we can grow in virtue.

5. God's ways are mysterious. One of the ideas that has arisen from modernity and from Protestantism is that one can know all there is bout the world and God, and that the unexplainable has no value. This is tied to empiricism and individualism - what can be known can only come through what perceive from our senses and what we personal interpret about God's revelation is what is knowable. I have come to fully understand that God works in ways sometimes completely out of the realm of our understanding. My advice is stop trying figure Him out and watch closely for signs that the Holy Spirit is present in the situation.

4. God requires our obedience. Opposition to this is again come because obedience is anti-cultural - rooted in the Protestantism and the rugged individualism of the people here especially in America. John 14:15 - If you love me, keep my commandments. How many of us choose and pick what are worthwhile and what are not? We make exceptions for ourselves when it is convenient.

3. Prayer is an absolute necessity in our relationship with God. I will be efficient in my words here: without a prayer life knowing and loving God is darn near impossible.

2. God grace is abundant and available for those who seek Him. The Holy Spirit was promised to us by Jesus. John 15:26. John describes the Paraclete/Holy Spirit as: companion, to be with the disciples "forever," after Jesus is gone (14:16-18; cf. 1 John 3:24; 4:13), a teacher, who will "remind" the disciples of Jesus' own words and teachings (14:26), a legal witness, who will give "testimony" to the disciples and the world about Jesus (15:26), a judge, who will "convict" (or "convince"?) the world "about sin and righteousness and judgment" (16:8-11), a revealer, who will "guide" the disciples to the "truth" about God and Jesus (16:13-15; cf. 1 John 5:6-8). God presents us with many grace opportunities if we are attuned to cooperating with Him.

1. I am combining two truths here: God is merciful and trust in His ways. I am sinful. I can by my own choice, choose to do what is wrong over what is right, not only that but quite often that is exactly what I do! There is always a choice and after offending the One who loves us, we can either forsake Him, proclaiming our unworthiness, or crawl back to Him asking for forgiveness. God's mercy is boundless, an ocean of love. That doesn't mean we can take advantage of it by repetitively sinning, we are to strive for holiness, but He is like the Father in the Prodigal Son, waiting and watching for us. Along with that mercy is trusting in Him. That is the question posed throughout Salvation History " Do you trust me?" It was asked to Adam & Eve in one garden and to Christ in another garden. It was posed to Abraham, Moses and the people of Israel, It was posed to the disciples and is posed to us today.

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