November 15, 2013


Being faithful disciples beyond the Year of Faith

During the final weeks of this Church year, we complete our observance of the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the last year of his pontificate and enthusiastically continued by his successor, Pope Francis. During this special time, we have asked ourselves in many diverse ways: What do we Catholics believe, and what difference does it make in our daily lives?

It might seem too obvious to mention, but we believe in God. Not just any god. We believe in the God of Abraham and the chosen people of Israel. More specifically, we believe in God as he has revealed himself to us through the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

What do we believe about God, and why is our faith in him so important?

We believe that God is a mystery beyond our comprehension. But we also believe that he has reached out to us and communicated with us through his creation, through sacred Scripture, through the life and ministry of Jesus, through the witness of saints, martyrs and evangelists, and through the sacraments of the Church—especially the holy Eucharist. We will never know everything about God in this life, but because of our faith we do know some very important things.

We know that God is all powerful (omnipotent), and that he created everything that exists (visible and invisible, material and spiritual). In the Apostles’ Creed, we proclaim this fundamental truth of our faith when we say, “I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and Earth.”

However, when we make this statement, we clearly state our belief that this all powerful God is not something abstract or remote from us—like a “life force” or an impersonal, cosmic being. The God we profess is a person, a Father, who creates from nothing out of an abundance of goodness and generosity. We believe that this God knows us, and loves us, personally and by name.

How do we know this? Jesus has shown us the Father. He has revealed that God is his Father, and ours, through his teaching, but also through his actions. He has also shown us that the Father cares deeply about each one of us, that he hears our prayers and responds to us.

In the Apostles’ Creed, we clearly connect our faith in God the Father with our faith “in Jesus Christ, his only Son, Our Lord.” Jesus shows us the Father. Our faith-filled confession that Jesus is Lord makes it possible for us to “see” the Father and to pray the Lord’s Prayer asking that, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.”

When we profess our faith in God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, we say some very important things about our world and about ourselves.

First, we affirm our belief that the world and everything in it is the creative result of a good and loving God. Evil exists, but it is not dominant. God’s love overcomes all evil, and his grace has the power to transform us and our world according to God’s plan.

Second, we acknowledge that we are members of the one family of God. As sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ, a man like us in all things but sin, we possess an inestimable dignity. All life is sacred—from the moment of conception to the time of natural death—because each and every one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. No one can deprive us of our profound dignity as sons and daughters of God.

Third, we are called to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. By professing our faith in him, we accept the call to conversion. We agree to become disciples who witness to him in our words and actions, and who agree to follow him on a lifelong journey to his Father’s house, our heavenly home.

Our Catholic faith is not something small or insignificant. It is the core of our being, the very heart of who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ. Faith is not something we only acknowledge on weekends. It is deeply personal, but it is never “private.”

What do we believe? We believe in God. What difference does that make? All the difference in the world because it profoundly changes how we see ourselves, our sisters and brothers and the world we live in.

Casual faith is weak and ineffective faith. To really make a difference in our personal lives, our families and communities and in our world, our faith must be rock solid. It’s true we all have doubts, and even the strongest among us wavers in his or her belief, but the stronger our faith is the better prepared we are to withstand fear, temptation and the power of evil. With faith, all things are possible for us.

As we conclude the Year of Faith, let us recommit ourselves to knowing, loving and serving the God in whom we believe. Let us be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who follow him without counting the cost to ourselves. And may the Holy Spirit strengthen us in our faith—now and always and forever.

—Daniel Conway

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