Friday, February 25, 2011

Faith Is Not in Externals

In the Catholic Times, a columnist discusses the problem which can arise when some spend too much time in prayer, too much time in  service to others, and filling their  homes with religious articles. They  can become so infatuated with a desire to experience God that they can be a disruptive influence on members of their family, and often turn them against religion. If it goes to an extreme, it becomes a religious delusion.

In these cases, they need medical help; with the proper medicine, they can find peace again but the underlying cause remains, a blindness that can return to rupture the relation they have with family and friends.

They mention that in their prayers and dreams, they often experience God. From such experiences, they try to live their lives. Faith  experiences, are very personal, they are  beyond our  ability to verbalize them or even categorize what was experienced.  The writer mentioned that he has visited with a couple of people who thought they were God, having received a message in their dreams. When he meets them, he asks if they are faithfully taking their medicine. They have told the doctors, but since the doctors don't believe them, they mention it to the columnist in a whisper. They say that they have not made this known but everybody in the hospital knows.

Belief is not something one understands only as an experience. What is experienced is not the totality of faith. We know this to be true for the disciples, who experienced our Lord right up until his death on the cross, and yet were without faith. If we are to have a healthy experience, it is necessary to have a correct faith life.

When we have the correct life of faith, we are able to understand  God correctly. When we have the proper relationship with God, we have the proper relationship with ourselves, with family and with others. It allows us to see ourselves as we are: joyful, humble, and knowing the meaning of life. It is this mature faith that allows us to have joy in our lives and to bring this joy to others.

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