by: Fr. Santo Arrigo C.Ss.R.,
Coordinator of Redemptorist Youth and Vocation Ministry
Yes * No * Black * White * Scandal * Injustice * Redemption * Forgiveness * Compassion * Judgement * Condemnation * Love
At least one word touches the very core of our being when we encounter anything having to do with an experience or expression of “faith” in our life today. Whether we have faith or not; whether we believe in God or not. All we need to do is turn on the TV or surf the net and we are bombarded with images and headlines that touch or point to an experience of belief systems – everything from war, abuse, mass suicides, hatred, sexism, judgement, to “do gooders”, healing of divisions, wonder and mystery.
Throughout generations, we have experienced through the faiths of our world the different expressions of both the good and the bad – the holy and the evil. For most of us, both believers or not, live somewhere inbetween. No where, and in no time have we been so bombarded with the facts of plain truth than in today’s generation. We seek truth, and instantly we receive it. Whether it is from google or wikipedia,the answer always reveals itself in an instant. Among the facts that we find among our search engines, we readily read those things of faith that provide us with quick rapid answers – those words above that show us the result of believing in a God, or gods that can provide us the easy answers of the do’s and don’ts, the right and wrong, and the yes and no’s. And for many, these rapid facts and pieces of information are not enough to help us believe, especially when our sources of faith – our holy men and women and our places of worship are frequently shrouded in the mess of today’s news.
How do we find faith, in the midst of some unforgiving and discouraging facts?
Recently I received an email through our website challenging the core of the need for faith.
“When will you guys understand that religion is some $#$%-ing bull-#$%$ meant to stop you from realizing the truth – there is probably no god, life is meaningless and when you’ll die there won’t be anything after that, and after a thousand years it won’t make any difference whether you ever existed or not”
Faith doesn’t just happen. It takes work, openness and insight. It takes a certain amount of letting go of the concrete, of what we “know” and giving over to what we do not know. Faith Happens? Yes and No. What we know in the now, the messiness of our well formed creeds and statements of beliefs only has its meaning in “what we do not know and understand”. That is faith. As our writer notes, “there probably is no god, and life is meaningless” . If there is no God, then life is meaningless. But for many of us, life has meaning, even if we do not have faith, even if we find ourself being spiritual and not religious. We seek meaning and hold to a hope that goes beyond the imagination of the existencial experience of what we DO know. Song writer Michael Card wrote it well, “To hear with our hearts, to see with our souls, to be guided by a hand we cannot hold….. to trust in a way that we can not see, that’s what faith must be.”
As a Catholic, we hold a rich tradition of prayer and liturgy, which in itself teaches us about mystery, faith, and the love of God working in the world through Jesus and through the hands and feet of faithfilled people today, yet for many young people, it can become an obstacle to their experience to their faith. Where do we find trust in a Church and a Religion that is steeped in the midst of controversy? Perhaps instead of saying that “I’m Spiritual and not Religious” as a way of pushing it all aside, we have to take a risk to uncover the Spiritual within the Religious – appreciate that there is a difference between our understanding and expression of Church, and the importance of our own Spiritual life rooted in Jesus Christ. It has often been suggested that Jesus would be horrified if he came and walked this earth today to see how everything perhaps is screwed up.
But this doesn’t mean that we need to give up on a tradition of faith and expression of religion when all is going wrong.
We are challenged with the task put aside all the questions that bring us to “yes” and “no” answers and to “DIVE INTO MYSTERY” – Get curious about what is in your heart and in your mind – and experience what God is saying within you. Life does find its meaning in the things that we do, the motivations that we have, and the relationships that we enter into. None of this is divorced from an experience of God, and the experience of God through the generous gift of His Son who walked among us to know us, to live life with us, as one of us. The truth is – someone came and walked among us 2000 years ago and spoke a message that broke through the chains of division, of hatred, of indifference, of scandal and of judgement based on black and white answers. This, we do know. And in trusting the cloud of witnesses who promised us they shared with us their truth in how they experienced him, we have come to know the face of God. And over the last 2000 years, we have seen and recalled the ways that this “truth” has been lived out, for good and for bad. But this truth hasn’t changed – only our perception and understanding of its power to change us.
Faith Happens? Yes and No. Allow yourself the opportunity to enter into mystery and not just live life with blind faith. Faith is only blind when we don’t give it a chance and seek to understand it. Perhaps that is our challenge as Church and as a people of faith, to not walk blindly in our faith, but to enter into mystery to not only have faith, but to experience God in a way that moves us from a blind faith into a living faith.
I’m moved share a comment, of which I cannot recall its origin, but it speaks back to our friend who wrote the comment…. If he is right and there is no God, and life is meaningless, then, yes, there is not point. If there is a God and in God we discover the meaning for our life and the joy and freedom of that discovery, then I’d rather take may chance and dive into mystery and see how my blind faith then becomes alive.