Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Daily Thought For March 26, 2014

Thanks For Sharing

     An acquaintance of mine works in a very tense office environment. Yet in spite of the stress she faces, she's always been able to maintain her composure and a sense of peace on the job. During one especially hard day, a colleague came to her in tears and asked how she was able to handle all the negativity in their workplace. My acquaintance explained that she could do so only on account of her Catholic faith. As it was, she was on her way to the lunchtime Mass at the nearby cathedral, and she invited her coworker to come along. One year later, that coworker was baptized at Easter, and my acquaintance was her sponsor. 
     "Faith," Saint Paul explains, "comes from what is heard" (Rm 10:17). This means that for us to have a measure of faith, we must have heard something, somewhere, and from someone about God and his love for us. Perhaps what we heard came through family, friends, a teacher, clergy, an author, the pages of Scripture, the teachings of a saint, a media figure, or, as with the case of my acquaintance, a coworker. Quite possibly it came from a combination of these―if not all of the above! I love that Scripture speaks of how Saint Timothy came to faith through the witness of Lois and Eunice―his mother and grandmother (see 2 Tm 1 :5). 
     At the same time, it may be that the Lord is inviting us to share our faith with another, just as faith has been shared with us. In fact, it's likely that he is, whether we're aware of it or not. There may very well be people in our lives whom the Lord might be able to reach only through us. Sharing our faith is called "evangelization." That's not a word Catholics have been accustomed to using, but evangelization is at the very heart of Catholicism: "She [the Church] exists in order to evangelize!" insisted Pope Paul VI.  And doing it isn't as hard or as scary as it may sound. "Evangelization" comes from the Greek words for "good news." To evangelize, then, is simply to share the good news at the heart of our faith. 
     But what if our faith feels fragile? Isn't it hypocritical to share our faith when its foundation feels shaky? Wouldn't doing so lead to more harm than good? Not at all! As Blessed Pope John Paul II assures us, "Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!" This is true even when we fear that we don't have much faith to give because God can do amazing things with even the smallest of gifts, like feeding an entire crowd with a handful of loaves and fishes. 
     A shared faith is a strengthened faith for a number of reasons. To start, sharing our faith forces us to examine what it is we really believe, instead of taking it for granted―and that's always a good thing! It can lead us to recall positive faith experiences that we may have forgotten over time, and we can be inspired and renewed by the knowledge that God might be using us as his agent to enter into another's life. And if our faith feels fragile, that may be exactly what another person needs to hear. Our honesty may assure them that they're not alone with their questions, and our common struggle might bring us closer to each other and to God. 
     Sharing faith involves sharing our story. And we all have one! You wouldn't likely be reading this book if you didn't think God had touched your life in some way. Your story may not be dramatic, but that doesn't make it less real. In your faith journey, you may have had ups and downs, struggles and joys, periods of doubt, and moments of great certainty. You may have walked hand in hand with God, and run away from him as fast as you could. Sometimes God has seemed like a stranger, while at other times he was very present, very real. He has taught us hard lessons and wiped away our tears. He has both confused us and guided us. He has brought us to our knees and made us jump for joy. He has spoken to us through other people, through the pages of books, and in those special moments we know weren't coincidences but instead were brushes with grace. Maybe we've thought that God was unfair, maybe we've tried to tell him how to do his job, and maybe we've had no choice other than to trust him. At times we could have cared less about God, and at times we couldn't have cared more. Sometimes we've just gone through the motions, and sometimes we've been driven by love. And then there are those memories we hold dear―of first Holy Communion, of our grandmother who prayed the rosary, of the special teacher or nun who made a difference, of that retreat that changed the course of our life. All of these things we can share with others that they might be challenged and consoled, instructed and inspired. 
     Our Lord doesn't wish for us to keep our faith to ourselves. 
Faith is his gift to us, to be sure, but it's a gift he wants us to share. It's good if Jesus is in our hearts, because that's where he wants to be! But Jesus also wants to be in our workplaces, our schools, our neighborhoods, our homes. And we are the only people who can bring him there. 
     That's why Jesus spoke of us as being the "light of the world" On 8:12). He insisted that we aren't to hide our light but allow it to shine for everyone to see, because he wants the light our faith can bring to dispel the darkness from the lives of those around us. And that can begin to happen, even if our faith's light is only a tiny spark. God can coax that spark into a roaring blaze―for others' lives and for ours. 

from When Faith Feels Fragile―Help for the Wary, Weak, and Wandering by R. Scott Hurd pp. 89-92