Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why a "Year of Faith"?

Raise your hand if you have family or friends who are Catholic, but who do not attend Sunday Mass on a weekly basis.  Keep it up if you know people who would describe themselves as not having a personal relationship with God.  Now raise your other hand if you'd like to deepen your own relationship with God.

Why has the Holy Father called for a Year of Faith?  Perhaps so we can all put our arms down and get busy with the work of the new evangelization!  Or, more seriously and more simply:  In order that we might rediscover and encounter--and thus help others to do so as well.

Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, which announced the Year of Faith, revolves around these two concepts.  It challenges us to ask ourselves how we can "rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ" (PF, n. 2).

To rediscover, of course, implies that we had once discovered the "door of faith."  Like an old friend with whom we might reconnect, to rediscover faith is to renew and reclaim what had once brought us so much life--"to pick up right where we had left off," and "to catch up about where we are now," and "to talk about where we're heading."  As these everyday phrases suggest, faith opens us into a deep, personal relationship:  ultimately, we open the "door of faith" not to teachings or doctrines or concepts, but to encounter the very Person of Christ.

The Year of Faith is also linked to the call for a stronger commitment to the new evangelization, and to the fundamental missionary commitment of the Church.  Just as runners strengthen themselves by running and swimmers strengthen themselves by swimming, so believers "strengthen themselves by believing" (St. Augustine).  In other words, "faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy" (PF, n. 7).  Isn't our weary world longing for more grace and joy?!

Pope Benedict understands that humanity is living in a time of profound change--one which requires all believers to become more conscious and vigorous in their adherence to the Gospel (PF, n. 8).  Unintentional or accidental discipleship clearly won't cut it now (as if it ever did).  We need to reclaim, consciously and intentionally, what it means to follow our Risen Lord this day, and this Year.  And then we need to go "make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19), starting with our own.