The advent season is celebrated on the church calendar in the five weeks leading up to Christmas. It is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of our coming King. Even for people who aren’t church-goers, Christmas is a season of joy, or at least that’s the hope– the reunion of family, the giving of presents, the longed-for holiday break.
Recently I attended a forum of Christians from different ecclesial communities to discuss the role of faith in the workplace. A colleague and I were the only Catholics in attendance, which intrigued some of our fellow-attendees who were from Anglican and Lutheran backgrounds. They were surprised to see Catholics interested in matters of faith and evangelisation. One even asked if our work was administrative. "No,” I replied, “we talk to people about Jesus." I could see the cognitive dissonance on his face. Maybe we had more in common than he previously thought?
A while back I was discussing our faith with a young man I encounter on a regular basis. He describes himself as a ‘former Catholic’ or, more positively, as a ‘devout Atheist.’ He gave up on the practice of his faith because, the course of one of the religious education classes he attended at a local Catholic secondary school, he was told that the world was created in seven days. He was instructed that he needed to accept this because the Bible says so. When he questioned this reading of history from a scientific perspective, he was told that science is wrong. He decided then and there that ‘belief in God is for idiots.’
A young friend of mine laughed at me the other day. My response to his question about why God doesn’t appear to answer prayer struck him as funny. When I said that God always answers prayers, just that he often responds either ‘no’ or ‘you need to be the person I will work through to get this done’, my friend laughed and said: ‘you mean God delegates?!’ We both laughed at the thought. Bear in mind that my friend is a self-described ‘devout atheist’. Most things to do with God strike him as funny. And yet he keeps asking me questions…
If you were to tell people you know that you believe in them what might they assume? Chances are they would recognise that you were affirming them and indicating that you have confidence in them. You could be telling them you have faith that they will succeed in what they are trying to do. You could be saying that you place your trust in them, in your certainty that they won’t let you down.
In his recent communication, ‘Rejoice and Be Glad’, Pope Francis gently touches on this important question: who will be saved? It is a thorny issue for, on the one hand, we want to acknowledge the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ, and the fact that it is only in him that salvation resides. And yet, on the other hand, the role of the Church (and each one of us in it) includes recognising and celebrating the ways in which God is clearly at work in the many people whose lives reveal they are very close to God – whether they experience themselves as ‘belonging’ or not.
Those of you who have had anything to do with Christian faith communities, other than those of the Catholic and the Orthodox, will know that a significant bone of contention amongst the various Christian denominations is the role of something referred to as ‘Tradition’. Put simply, Tradition (the capital ‘T’ is deliberate) refers to those teachings of the Apostles passed on to the Church that, while in keeping with Scriptural sources, may not be explicitly developed there.
Stop and contemplate the meaning of “resurrection”. It’s easy to glide over the word, take it for granted as part of the Christian story, and not think of its implications as we make our journey in faith today. As we are still in the aftermath of Easter, this is perhaps an appropriate time to give it some thought.
By the time you read this the Easter holidays will be over. For those of us who were able to take a break I am sure they were much appreciated. They remain an interesting vestige of our past as a Christian culture, only partially understood by the majority, but we’re thankful for the holiday nonetheless. Perhaps you’re interested in learning one or two things about what Easter actually is? If so, read on.
Desire is everywhere. Whether it’s for (or on behalf of) ourselves, our families, our friends, or our world most of us desire something most of the time. It is part of being human. We might not all talk about it in spiritual terms, but as the great philosopher Plato observed: “We are fired into life with a madness that comes from the gods and which would have us believe that we can have a great love, perpetuate our own seed, and contemplate the divine.”