The Year of Faith has certainly come at an opportune time. Pope Benedict XVI has called for the church to embrace this year which emphasizes the need for an increased understanding of our faith. It is obvious to me and other leaders of our church that we’ve neglected our catechesis.
For a long time the richness of the church’s doctrine and theological expression has failed to occupy a primary position in our lives. Many find it difficult to articulate even the basic concepts of our church teachings. Perhaps we have felt that religious expression was reserved for priests, sisters or academics. However, as Catholics, we have an obligation to share our faith with others.
Part of the Year of Faith is to evangelize. Evangelization means exactly that: a witnessing and sharing of our faith. But we can’t share what we don’t possess. There is a Latin maxim “Nemo dat non quod habet” (I can’t give what I don’t have).
At this time in our history we, as a nation, need to be informed about our faith. I am convinced the salvation of our nation depends upon the developed religious conscience.
Our nation was founded on those seeking religious freedom. The very heart of our existence as an American people is rooted in the need to freely express our belief in God and publicly practice our faith.
That is why it is among our first and most cherished freedoms. We shouldn’t be arguing whether or not religion has a place in the public discourse. It should be obvious that we need religion to engage our dialogue.
Our nation is confronting questions which challenge the very recognition of our freedoms, and this affects our human dignity. There is a faulty perspective that believes our problems can be solved without our dependency upon God. We are confronted with a vision by secularism — that we would all be better off without religion or professions of faith.
Remember the John Lennon song “Imagine”? A catchy tune, but if one examines the lyrics Lennon implies that we would have a utopia if only we eliminated heaven, hell, countries and religion. Then we would live in peace. But we would also live without a definition of who we are as human beings and we would also be denying the truth that calls us to recognize the transcendence among us.
Our faith challenges us to live fully the life that God has granted to us. Scripture reveals to us that we are not the masters of the universe but rather stewards over the creation. The freedom that we exercise is tempered by responsibility.
Our faith further informs us of our responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We must be a voice for the unborn, the poor, the immigrant and the marginalized. The church offers us the ability to solve even the most perplexing human dilemmas by applying the principles grounded in the Scriptures. The teachings of Jesus and his church give us vision so that we might view the world as the Creator has fashioned it.
As we begin Advent, our attention turns to preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ. We are told to be on guard, to watch and to pray. The prophets foretold his coming. All of salvation history longed for this moment.
In this new cycle of readings we will be proclaiming the Gospel of St. Luke who was addressing a Gentile community. These Gentiles wanted to know the connection of Jesus to the entire human family. Therefore it was important for Luke to link Jesus not only to Abraham but also to Adam. Luke will also emphasize the social responsibility of the Good News. The Christian has an obligation to care for the needs of our brothers and sisters.
During this liturgical season we join with the Israelite community in the historical anticipation for the promised coming of the Messiah. He will come not as a heralded king or in worldly power but rather as a poor and defenseless child.
Could you even imagine the all-powerful God making himself more accessible to us than in the embodiment of a newborn baby?
During Advent we are also preparing for the second coming of Jesus, who will call us to provide an accounting for the gifts given to us. The question is, “Are we ready?”
I know that many of you will frequently attend Mass, offer prayers and perform some good charitable works. I am always edified by the efforts that so many good people demonstrate at Advent.
But in this Year of Faith, allow me to add one suggestion to the list. Since the pope asks us to concentrate on understanding our faith, take the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” and find the section called “IN BRIEF.” It is found at the end of the “ARTICLE.” It is a brief summation of whatever doctrinal subject was being presented. It will not take long to read through it.
Do this religiously every day during Advent. It will help to build your theological language and give you a sense of the richness of our teachings. You may even start to discover why we pray as we do.
The Year of Faith is not only important to us, but to our entire society. It is a reminder that with God, nothing is impossible.