A Guide on Our Journey of Faith
In this series of articles we are walking on our journey of Faith. We are taking the opportunity of the Year of Faith to examine the roots of our faith and look at how we can develop and grow it. The Journey of Faith is not a simple straight road. There are many bends and forks in the road. Sometimes we can go off the path and find ourselves lost. It is then that we see the value of having a good guide.
At this point on our journey I thought it might be a good idea to find a guide. Fortunately, our guide arrived in the person of the Holy Father. Pope Francis travelled to Brazil for World Youth Day to bring his message and guidance to the young people of the world. His words are freely available to guide us on our journey.
Now, there may be some readers out there who are thinking that I am no longer a youth. They may say that the Holy Father’s words are not for me. I disagree on two grounds. First I have to point out that we are called to eternal life and that even those who have reached the age of one hundred are mere infants in the scope of eternity. We are all children. Secondly, having looked at what Pope Francis said, I can see that he actually addressed the whole Church with a focus on the youth.
So, what was his message? It was simple, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” We have heard that before. Jesus said that to the apostles, but the message was not just for the twelve, it was to all of us. We have been given the gift of faith and to make it grow within us we must give it away to others. Trying to keep it for ourselves, hidden away from the world will cause it to wither. We are urged to bring our faith out into the streets.
Now the image of standing on street corners with a megaphone, broadcasting to the shoppers and passers-by fills me with horror. I can’t imagine anything worse. Telling everyone how to live and what to believe, correcting the errors in their lives on Main Street, telling the world that they are wrong, just seems ineffective.
The Pope is encouraging us to become missionaries in our lives in a proactive way, showing how to live rather than telling others. His words in Rio were;
“Go and make disciples of all nations”. With these words, Jesus is speaking to each one of us, saying: “It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.” Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? What is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.
Now I was not in Rio and did not have that experience to pass on but the message is not to be avoided. If my faith is to grow then I must share it. The Holy Father said;
Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history (cf. Rom 10:9).
Careful, though! Jesus did not say: “go, if you would like to, if you have the time”, but he said: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you;
How are we to bear witness to the faith? In his talks to the pilgrims and others Pope Francis continually uses the word “Solidarity”. He urges us to look outwards to the poor, the sick and the excluded. In his visit to St. Francis Of Assisi Of The Providence Of God Hospital he said;
As Jesus says to us: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
The Holy Father is calling us back to the very basics of the Church, to the examples Christ gave us. We are called to rebuild the Church. As individuals we can become set in our ways and the same is true of the Church. We can become bogged down in the minutia of daily life and miss the big picture. Then it is easy to wander off the path. He talked of the Church as a building made of stones, living stones and the part we play.
each one of us is a living stone, a small part of the edifice; when the rain comes, if this piece is missing, there are leaks and water comes in. Don’t build a little chapel which holds only a small group of persons. Jesus asks us to make his living Church so large that it can hold all of humanity, that it can be a home for everyone!
This is no invitation to join a small faith-sharing group. This is a challenge to grasp the faith and follow where it leads. We are challenged to take on the injustice in the world and expose it for what it is. We are expected to identify what is wrong in our world, and in our Church and make changes. This is not a ‘happy clappy’ church we are being invited to. We are called to work for the coming of the Kingdom.
When I really was a youth the priest brought the sacraments to us and we received them. We were passive. The reality of the Church is that we are called to be active. Some of us may find that exciting. Other might be frightened off. How can we do this on our own? Well, as the Holy Father reminded the pilgrims in Rio, we are not on our own.
“Do not be afraid!” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus never leaves anyone alone! He always accompanies us .
I stop and think about this challenge. It seems immense. I don’t even know where to begin. Pope Francis was there before me. To the pilgrims at his Mass on the beach at Copacabana he said;
Some people once asked Mother Teresa of Calcutta what needed to change in the Church, and which wall should they start with? They asked her, where is the starting point? And she replied, you and I are the starting point!
There was so much more in the Holy Fathers talks in Rio. I have tried to convey something of what he said that will guide us in our journey but it is worth reading all of what he said. The whole text is available on the internet, on the Vatican website. You will find a link to it here.
So, you and I are the starting point. Let’s get out there and grow the faith.