"We walk by faith and not by sight; no gracious words we hear of him who spoke as none e'er spoke, yet we believe him near."
A great many churches have used this popular hymn in divine worship, and we Catholics will be called to reflect more deeply on the theme of the above text in the months to come. We are observing a "Year of Faith" which runs from Oct. 11, 2012, through Nov. 24, 2013. The start date commemorates two prominent anniversaries the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the ending date coincides with the conclusion of the next liturgical year. Bishop David Kagan has published a pastoral letter for the faithful of North Dakota titled "I Call You Friends" to kick off the Year of Faith.
I've been considering how to personally understand what this upcoming Year of Faith means for me, and so my aim in this reflection is to offer a perspective from "my side of the altar."
Rev. James Gross
As I see it, this discussion begins with the idea of revelation. I could not have conjured up my faith by myself. The beauty of what I believe is too wonderful to be explained away as mere human invention designed to fill an emotional void. The God who created me in his image and likeness wants me to know, as far as possible with my human limits, whom I love and serve. I cling, not so much to a set of rules, but to a romance; the mystery of God's identity is unfolded for me in his church out of tremendous love.
This upcoming year serves to remind me that I should appreciate the virtue of faith as it is a gift to be received, and which finds its end point in God. I didn't earn my faith as if it were a trophy awarded at the end of a competition or a cash bonus that a boss begrudgingly gives to an employee who meets a production quota. Neither can another's faith substitute for my own: my saintly mother is helpful to me, but when I stand before Christ, I can't count on her to believe for me.
That being said, we must unwrap the gift of faith in order to put it to use. Think of a large present that is put under the tree on Christmas Eve and is never opened, but gets put away again year after year. What good does it do anybody? How is God calling me to unwrap and use the gift of faith, through my private prayer, service in the community, or conversations with family and friends?
Reflections, a mini-sermon written by Minot and area clergy, will appear each Saturday in The Minot Daily News. Clergy interested in writing a mini-sermon should contact Religion Editor Loretta Johnson at 857-1952 or Debbie Sandvold at 857-1950. The toll-free number is 1-800-735-3229.
Lastly, I'd like to share the following statement from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which since first reading it many years ago I have found particularly enlightening: "Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed." (#150)
Is there an article of faith that I find hard to accept, and why? The lamp of faith must not hide under a bushel basket.
May all of us, no matter where we are on our pilgrimage of life, rejoice in God's work of redemption so as to share with the world the gifts we have received.
The Rev. James Gross is pastor of St. Cecilia's Catholic Church, Velva, and Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Karlsruhe.