We had a guest homilist today. A deacon from a nearby parish came and delivered a thought-provoking homily on mission. He urged us all to think of ourselves as missionaries. Although he was very good, my mind wandered as it often does. My thoughts were related but just my own musings about an encounter I had recently with a friend who is an atheist. She likes to pick fights on topics. With me, it is religion. I’ve learned not to bite because not only doesn’t she care, her fights are a release of anger for her. It doesn’t matter what the topic is that she knows she can fight with you about, that’s just how it is.
How do I bring the Gospel to her is what I wondered and so my mind went in that direction. She was brought up Catholic and rejects the faith because she rejects the religion. Sounds circular doesn’t it but I don’t think it is. I think many people confuse faith and religion. Religion has become a category that one studies that has content that is black and white. It is often remote when seen this way. As a topic, one can debate it, blame it etc. Faith which religion tries to describe and protect is much richer, more powerful. Faith is personal. It is relationship, commitment, suffering and joy.
I write this tonight because as I head toward a Year of Faith, I will read the documents of a religion but unless they become personally understood, they aren’t faith. I don’t want this to be an intellectual exercise. My Year of Faith must be personal, challenging, meaningful. It must be a pilgrimage to deepen the commitment to mission. But mission to what, I cannot change my friend. How do we bring the Gospel to others?