A few years back I received an email from a Protestant woman who was on the verge of entering the Catholic Church. She was still struggling to understand some areas of Catholic teaching and asked for my help. I called her and we spoke for about an hour. During our conversation, I didn’t quote extensively from the Catechism, nor did I talk down to her or over her head. I simply talked about my relationship with Jesus, my love for the sacraments—especially for the Eucharist and Reconciliation—and I explained in a very down-to-earth way the richness, beauty, and truth of our Catholic faith—not just what we believe, but why we believe it.
Some time later, I received another email from her stating that she had joined RCIA and was preparing to be received into the Catholic Church. She said, “Your contacting me after I emailed you was HUGE for me entering the Church. Your making that effort; your sharing a bit of your knowledge about Church history, and your enthusiasm for sharing the faith was pivotal, and with that momentum I walked into a Catholic Church (not easy to do!) and found a priest there. I was persistent and he was patient! Some of this has been very difficult for me. Since the time you and I first communicated, I have done tons of reading and praying and have covered a lot of ground to get to where I am today. So when I enter the Church at the Easter Vigil, it will be because of your efforts and those of father. This is a life-changing event for me, and I don’t know how you thank somebody for something like that! I pray God rewards you big-time!”
Were father and I responsible for her coming into the Catholic Church? Absolutely not! We simply did what Jesus spoke about in the Gospels. We shared our love for the Catholic faith in response to the grace that we received in baptism—we were sowers planting seeds. It is the Holy Spirit that allows the seed of faith to take root and grow in us, and if we freely and lovingly cooperate with what God wants to do in us, our lives will bear much fruit. They key is to never stop learning about the faith; to never stop asking questions; to never stop struggling, and to live the faith that we profess with great joy and enthusiasm! We must make a connection between the faith that we learn and the lived experience of that faith. Sometimes this means picking-up our cross and following Christ with the understanding that living the Truth means being counter-cultural. Christ did not die so that his teachings could be changed by the culture: Christ died so that his Love and his Truth could change the world!
What is our response when we come face-to-face with Truth? Do we allow the seed to fall to the ground and never take root deep within us, where “the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in our hearts” (Matthew 13:19)? Are we Catholic only to the point where we feel comfortable and ignore the Church’s teaching on difficult issues? Are we prepared to learn the why of our faith before simply dismissing certain Church teachings that are at odds with the popular culture? Are we honest enough with ourselves to truly engage in and struggle with what it means to be a faithful Catholic?
What is our response when we come face-to-face with Truth? Is the seed of faith sown on the rocky ground of our hearts where it lasts only until “some tribulation or persecution comes” (Matthew 13:20)? Do we accept the Church’s teaching so long as it doesn’t affect me directly? When we are faced with serious challenges in life that require moral strength and fortitude, are we able to say, “Yes” to Jesus Christ and “No” to outside forces that see Jesus only as “a great guy” and not the Savior of the world; that see all truth as relative and not the only Son of God as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6)? Jesus asks us to follow in his footsteps. He did not put down his Cross, walk away, and take the easy way out–and neither should we!
What is our response when we come face-to-face with Truth? Is the seed of God’s love trying to grow amidst the thorns of sin in our souls? Do the obligations of our faith, which free us to love as God loves, influence the way we think and act, or are we content with reducing our faith to myopic battles between Democrats and Republicans, or liberals versus conservatives? Do we accept the responsibility of life-giving love and communion that comes with being Catholic, or do we decide and define for ourselves what being Catholic means influenced by a culture of death that chokes the Word of Life and bears no fruit?
We are called to lives of holiness: lives that constitute the simplest and best way to perceive the beauty of truth, to experience the liberating force of God’s love, and to acknowledge the value of unconditional fidelity to all of God’s laws even in the most difficult situations. Our Lord calls us to be his courageous servants of all that is true, good and beautiful. Deep inside our hearts we know it; let us not be afraid to live it! Let us strive hear the Word of God and understand it; let us be rich and fertile soil so that God’s life may grow in us.
“I leave you now with this prayer: that the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to each one of you, that He will give you the strength to go out and profess that you are Christian, that He will show you that He alone can fill your hearts. Accept His freedom and embrace His truth, and be messengers of the certainty that you have been truly liberated through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. This will be the new experience, the powerful experience that will generate, through you, a more just society and a better world” (Pope John Paul II, 1979).
©2011 Aurem Cordis and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers