On Oct. 11, we, the Church, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II. That Council was called by Blessed Pope John XXIII. As part of the recognition of this significant anniversary, our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has called for a Year of Faith to be celebrated beginning Oct. 11. This celebration raises a number of questions:
Why do we need a Year of Faith?
It’s needed because there is a crisis of faith among Catholics. According to a study we recently commissioned by the Barna Group, only about half the Catholics in South Jersey, a close reflection of the national trend, practice the faith. Why do so many Catholics not participate in Eucharist and the sacraments? Why is there growing indifference to the faith? We know there is a growing secularism in our culture, namely a belief that religion should be relegated to private observance for those who want to do so but should have no place in public life.
What is faith? Is it merely an intellectual assent and agreement with what is prayed in the Creed?
Faith is not merely an intellectual exercise. Our faith is surrender in trust to the person of Jesus, and through Him, in His Father and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, at a moment in time took flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and became fully human while at the same time remaining fully Divine. Jesus has come to help us, His sisters and brothers, to know the Father, to understand and experience the overwhelming love that God the Father has for us, his wayward children.
Jesus tells us by His life, death and His rising that God loves us, that the Father wants to restore us back to comformity with His will so that we may share that happiness with the Trinity in heaven.
Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to empower us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that by our lives, words and actions we may give testimony to the message of Jesus.
God loves us, God has not abandoned us, God has a passionate desire for us to be united with Father, Son and Spirit in heaven.
Faith then is surrender and trust, and commitment to the person of Jesus Christ, to His message and mission. In surrender to Jesus we come, as Jesus Himself said, to know and see the Father. In surrendering to Jesus, our lives are open to the person and presence of His Holy Spirit.
To understand what faith means we are to reflect upon and understand the marvelous reality of our relationship with God and God’s relationship with us.
Why then do we need a Year?
Faith is not merely for 365 days, but for a lifetime. However, it is important, in the midst of all distraction, in the midst of all the confusion in the world today, we who are called to faith through baptism should focus on what that call means.
It is necessary and important for us to renew what it means to be people who believe, trust and love. This year is intended to be a revival in our lives of the faith of the Church, which has been celebrated for more than 2,000 years. It is an opportunity for us to join our minds, hearts and intentions with those Christians who have and continue to suffer, even to die, because of their trust, faith and love for Jesus Christ.