As we head into the Year of Faith, I have come to appreciate the difference between what others identify as our faith and what Catholics do. I also appreciate that each Catholic thinks about faith differently too and that is because faith is lived. Outsiders see rules and a systematic formula. That is true but that isn’t faith. In reflecting on this idea, I think that somewhere in the twentieth century Catholic education over-emphasized the systematic in our education at the expense of the lived. This is what education does unfortunately in every subject matter in order to learn the basics to see the big picture. Because our minds don’t see the big picture, we understand only pieces, fragments of the truth. We often fail to see in the other, the truth they espouse.
Of course, I am probably not seeing the big picture either. But in reflecting upon this, I think I see two effects of this education. First, is the rigidness of some Catholics about the “rules”, forgetting the overarching ones – Love God with your whole self and Love your neighbor. The second is the rebellion from the rules because of its perceived rigidness as well as because of pride. These Catholics want to be Catholic but object to the rules. They focus on the lived. Doesn’t sound like a problem but this group of Catholics I find the hardest to deal with because they reject the notion of sin. The first group takes sin seriously and can be loosened up because pride and being judgmental are also sins. But the second group don’t see their vanity and arrogance. Their “passions” rule. Their passion is to fix the world to their idea of what the world should be. I often agree with their vision but truly – do we know if it is God’s vision? I’m not sure the question is asked although often they assert they are doing something in Jesus’ name. Sometimes they completely contradict the Gospel message – like supporting abortion.
This idea about systematic vs. lived came to me at Mass with the reading of the Letter from St. James. We don’t receive what we ask for because we ask for something related to our passions. The rebelling Catholics ask for social justice and in doing so they are praying for something for themselves – to create the world they want to create. Wonder what would happen if they and all of us were truly humble and cultivated God and His Vineyard by living our faith by Loving God first and Loving neighbor second. If your passion isn’t God, how can we ask for peace? In loving God, we must remember he has told us what offends him – and we need to avoid sin. We also need to remember everyone is a sinner and to love our neighbor. Truly, the last shall be first. Let us serve one another because He has asked us to, not because we have a goal. We might be amazed at the outcome.
So, given my thoughts in several of these entries have been this notion of the “rules” vs. living the faith, I think I need to balance my looking at the documents of our Faith with living the Faith during this upcoming year. Don’t you?