I have procrastinated for the last two weeks about how to start this article. I wondered if I should write about COVID-19. Things seem to be changing so quickly, that today’s news is stale tomorrow. And hasn’t enough been written already? Aren’t we all getting a bit tired of the “C” word? But I figured that many of you subscribe to Faith Journey because you are trying to make sense of the Catholic faith, and how it might have a role in everyday life.
This issue of Faith Journey will arrive in your email inbox during the season of Lent. For those of you not familiar with the traditions of the Catholic faith, Lent is a period of six weeks. It falls between two important events in the Catholic calendar: Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday (which is three days before Easter Sunday).
I am writing this article in mid-January. The beautiful blue sky and gentle breeze I can see from my window belies what most of us have experienced over the past month or more. Parched earth, landscapes, homes and businesses ravaged by fire, choking smoke haze and most recently thunder and hail storms. And lives lost as a consequence.
In my final two years of high school, I failed English. This is an unusual thing to hear coming from a qualified English teacher and professional writer.
How did I go from loathing English in high school to loving literature and creative writing as an adult? Simply put: the Bible.
The advent season is celebrated on the church calendar in the five weeks leading up to Christmas. It is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of our coming King. Even for people who aren’t church-goers, Christmas is a season of joy, or at least that’s the hope– the reunion of family, the giving of presents, the longed-for holiday break.
Recently I attended a forum of Christians from different ecclesial communities to discuss the role of faith in the workplace. A colleague and I were the only Catholics in attendance, which intrigued some of our fellow-attendees who were from Anglican and Lutheran backgrounds. They were surprised to see Catholics interested in matters of faith and evangelisation. One even asked if our work was administrative. "No,” I replied, “we talk to people about Jesus." I could see the cognitive dissonance on his face. Maybe we had more in common than he previously thought?
A while back I was discussing our faith with a young man I encounter on a regular basis. He describes himself as a ‘former Catholic’ or, more positively, as a ‘devout Atheist.’ He gave up on the practice of his faith because, the course of one of the religious education classes he attended at a local Catholic secondary school, he was told that the world was created in seven days. He was instructed that he needed to accept this because the Bible says so. When he questioned this reading of history from a scientific perspective, he was told that science is wrong. He decided then and there that ‘belief in God is for idiots.’
A young friend of mine laughed at me the other day. My response to his question about why God doesn’t appear to answer prayer struck him as funny. When I said that God always answers prayers, just that he often responds either ‘no’ or ‘you need to be the person I will work through to get this done’, my friend laughed and said: ‘you mean God delegates?!’ We both laughed at the thought. Bear in mind that my friend is a self-described ‘devout atheist’. Most things to do with God strike him as funny. And yet he keeps asking me questions…
If you were to tell people you know that you believe in them what might they assume? Chances are they would recognise that you were affirming them and indicating that you have confidence in them. You could be telling them you have faith that they will succeed in what they are trying to do. You could be saying that you place your trust in them, in your certainty that they won’t let you down.
In his recent communication, ‘Rejoice and Be Glad’, Pope Francis gently touches on this important question: who will be saved? It is a thorny issue for, on the one hand, we want to acknowledge the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ, and the fact that it is only in him that salvation resides. And yet, on the other hand, the role of the Church (and each one of us in it) includes recognising and celebrating the ways in which God is clearly at work in the many people whose lives reveal they are very close to God – whether they experience themselves as ‘belonging’ or not.