Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Living the 'Year of Faith' Always

The value of faith in living the good life is not appreciated in today's world, says a seminary professor writing in a recent issue of the Kyeongyang magazine. The professor, also a pastor, shares his view of this important subject as he reflects on the end results of the recently completed Year of Faith.

Faith, he admits, is hard to come by in a world where distrust and skepticism is the norm, owing to the rapid accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, without a significant improvement in the lives of the many, the political corruption, the lack of equal economic opportunities, dysfunctional family life, a market-driven educational system, even the religious world is not without criticism. The natural consequence is cynicism; the trust needed for a well-functioning society becomes infected with doubt and frustration.

The Catholic Church is not exempt from this same criticism, he makes clear.  Though we should be happy to have 5 million Catholics, it's sobering to know that less than one fourth are going to Sunday Mass. The Church works for further democratization of the society, for human rights, welfare reform, environmental concerns, the unification of the country, among other concerns, and encourages Christians to join in these efforts. But they are either too tired from the demands of living or too attracted to material comforts to become involved in works of the Church.

As a pastor, he has tried everything to nurture a mature Christian consciousness among his parishioners. As a professor he has the hands-on experience of what is required of a pastor and confesses that to transmit the vision of Catholicism  to his parishioners, encouraging them to be enthusiastic about their faith life, is not as easy as he once thought.

Having worked hard in educating his community during the Year of Faith, he has learned one thing for certain. With all the programs for spiritual renewal: lectures, retreats, community building, it has become obvious to him that in  the Church reform movements come not from below but from above.

He sees the traditional way of being a pastor as no longer appropriate: Having sheep pastured separately from the pastor who would direct the sheep according to his ways, receiving the protection of the pastor who would guard the gate so the sheep would not be injured, needing only to listen and follow his instructions. Though they would have, the pastor points out, the correct faith life, at the present time this is no longer the way pastoral work can be done. It is not the way Christians will see the beauty of what they  received from the Church. The Second Vatican Council wants both the pastor and "his flock" to leave the pasture and work together for a greater faith life.

They are invited to go out and face the dangers together, strengthening immunity by building community togetherness, experiencing the universal love of God and his universal call to salvation. There is a need for Catholics to be more responsive to creating a life of faith. To do this they will need to read the sign of the times, discerning and interpreting them with the light of the Gospel. And as they become involved in the suffering of the times, they will be able to see and participate in the love and mercy of God with those they encounter.

In short, what the Church needs today is to rest in Jesus. Without this time of rest--only possible with more trust and faith--we will not know why we live, where we are heading. If we want to know what will keep us going in the right direction, we need to devote more time to this crucial aspect of life. By doing so, by reflecting on what it's all about, guided by faith, we will be extending the Year of Faith into the future.

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