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The Year of Faith begins today. The Pope has launched a challenge to all believers. Do we really believe what the Church teaches?
Pope Benedict XVI had this in mind when, last year, he told us all that we would be celebrating a special Year of Faith beginning today and lasting throughout this year. Why, we can ask, is faith so important to remember? What about faith could stand to have more awareness?
The Year of Faith commemorates the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the twentieth birthday of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But it is more than a remembrance of the past; it is a vital moment of growth for the future.
In his audience this Wednesday, the Holy Father gave us the key: “Our own era, which has forgotten God, needs to be reminded of the profound message of the Council, that Christianity consists of faith in the triune God and in a personal and communal encounter with Christ who orients and gives meaning to life. Everything else flows from this.”
Do we really believe what the Church teaches? If we believe that 5-2=3, we will not allow ourselves to be shortchanged and will demand our three dollars back if we buy a two-dollar item with a five-dollar bill. The truths of mathematics have real life consequences. Do the truths of the faith have real life consequences for us? Can we point them out? What are the things in our lives that “flow from” our faith?
And, I think more fundamentally, what are the things we struggle with in our faith? Do we live these with the same intensity as the things we find easy to believe? When we have doubts, does God and his Church get the benefit of the doubt, or do we give that to ourselves?
St. Thomas Aquinas made an amazing and very challenging point about this. If we do not accept something that the Church teaches, then we do not believe anything that the Church teaches by faith. We just happen to agree with the Church, but the ultimate arbiter of what we believe is our reason, not our trust in God and his Church.
Yes, the Church has lost credibility of late. Sex Scandals, document stealing butlers, maybe a boring Sunday homily or two. Does that change the fact that Jesus founded the Church and the Holy Spirit guides it? That it is protected from teaching error by God’s assistance? Do we trust God enough to believe that? Isn’t that what faith is all about: believing what God says because we trust Him?
That is what is in crisis. And that is the flabby muscle we need to flex and tone this year. A world that loses sight of God loses sight of its goal, and no one wants to be on a team that has no eye on the prize.
The Holy Father has called this Year of Faith like a coach in the locker room huddles his team to refocus. Trust the game plan, guys, execute, follow through. Eternal life is in play. During this Year of Faith, let’s make a resolution to review the playbook, Sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the documents of Vatican II. But above all, let’s ask God for the grace to believe, even when it’s tough. Because, as always, that’s when it counts the most.