Today is the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time. The weekly readings can be found here. For the reflection, I would like to focus on a quote from the Second Reading, a letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen”. Faith is the core of the Christian belief system. However, in order for a deep and rich faith to develop, it has to be an examined faith.
One of the things I like about Christianity and Catholicism in particular is that it challenges and engages the intellect. From its earliest beginnings with Divine Revelation of the Incarnation and the Resurrection, Christianity adopted philosophy including naming the pre-existent Second Person of the Trinity (the Logos) after a Greek philosophical term. Christianity encourages asking the fundamental questions that come with the human condition: Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Is there a God? Why is there evil? What is the purpose of my life? The answers to these questions often lead to a deeper understanding of the Christian faith and ultimately a deeper relationship with God. I know in my personal life, it was only after I asked the deepest questions regarding the existence of God and the purpose of life that I came to understand my faith and God in a more personal way.
As Blessed John Paul II wrote in his encyclical letter Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason): “The Church cannot but set great value upon reason’s drive to attain goals which render people’s lives ever more worthy. She sees in philosophy the way to come to know fundamental truths about human life. . . The Church considers philosophy an indispensable help for a deeper understanding of faith.” Blessed John Paul II also states:
“Driven by the desire to discover the ultimate truth of existence, human beings seek to acquire those universal elements of knowledge which enable them to understand themselves better and to advance in their own self-realization. These fundamental elements of knowledge spring from the wonder awakened in them by the contemplation of creation: human beings are astonished to discover themselves as part of the world, in a relationship with others like them, all sharing a common destiny. Here begins, then, the journey which will lead them to discover ever new frontiers of knowledge. Without wonder, men and women would lapse into deadening routine and little by little would become incapable of a life which is genuinely personal.”
With that introduction, today’s reflection comes to us from a true world traveler, John Predmore, S.J. Fr. Predmore is a Jesuit priest of the New England Province who serves as pastor of the English speaking Latin-rite Catholics in Jordan, of the Jerusalem diocese. Fr. Predmore has also lived in Australia and New Zealand. Fr. Predmore’s blog is an exceptionally rich resource for Ignatian Spirituality and is on my list of daily visits.
However, as John Predmore, S.J. (more information below) says, in order for the faith to reach its fullness in a deep relationship with God, it has to be an examined faith:
“We sometimes need to pause outside of church and ask ourselves what we truly believe about our faith life and ask ourselves how we come to know what we know. An unexamined faith isn’t much of a faith at all. It might have been given to us culturally or as cradle Catholics, but it serves us well to examine our traditions and uncover what we find. We have to appropriate the faith, make it our own, if it is going to make sense at all.”
Fr. Predmore goes to on say how an examined faith will lead to a deeper prayer life and a deeper relationship with God:
For Catholics, Jesus becomes the personal face of God (editor’s note: remember Jesus is the incarnate logos of Greek philosophy). At the start of the Gospel, he tells his friends not to be afraid because his father wants to give them the kingdom, but we see that vigilance is needed and we will certainly wait for his return if we become better friends with him. So the question becomes about becoming a better friend to him. If your prayer practices are bringing you closer to a personal, easy-to-talk-to, conversant Jesus, then you are on the right path. If not, stop praying the way you learned and try a different way. Do not spend your time in a type of prayer that does not bring you into closer friendship. Drop it. And if you find yourself working too hard in prayer, stop working.
The simplest type of prayer is simply to ask Jesus to show you where he is in your life today. Let the initiative be his. Let him say to you, “Remember this afternoon when this event happened? I was there and I saw what went on.” Give him a chance to say anything else he wants to tell you about the events. You’ll have your time to respond and ask questions, but make sure you give sufficient amounts of time to listen to how he feels about what goes on with you.
Do not feel pressure to tell Jesus about the big things in your life yet. Just tell him the little things that you notice throughout your day and how you feel about them. Tell him how happy it made you when your employer smiled at you and wished you a happy day. Tell him how refreshed you feel from drinking a hot cup of coffee without interruptions the very first instant this morning. Let him know how happy you feel that you said “no” to dessert and that you made the right choice in choosing your healthy lunch. We really need to have better small talk with Jesus if we are going to have more meaningful ones. The small ones always lead to the more important ones.”
I encourage you to read Fr. Predmore’s entire reflection here.
Here are other resources on developing an examined faith:
Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith) (encyclical letter on faith by Pope Francis).
Fides Et Ratio (Faith and Reason) (encyclical letter on faith and reason by Pope John Paul II).
Can Christians Still Believe? (outstanding free on-line book by James Arraj on the beginning of the universe, evolution and human origins, original sin, and Jesus of history and Jesus of faith).
Embracing Doubt to Grow to a Mature Faith (first in a series of blogposts of how embracing doubt can lead to a deeper faith).