Know, live, and share the faith. Do these words sound familiar? I hope so. Beginning with the Year of Faith in 2013, we have used them to give direction and focus in our efforts to receive the gift of faith gratefully, live it joyfully, and share it enthusiastically with others.
As I thought about this week’s theme for the Catholic Sun, “Living our Faith,” two words came to mind: encounter and accompany.
As people of faith, we know that God has taken the initiative in drawing near to us. “We love because he first loved us” (1Jn 4:19). Our personal encounter with Christ is the key event in our lives. Pope Francis reminds us, “Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see” (Lumen Fidei, June 29, 2013).
When we live our faith, we are open to this personal encounter with Christ. No one should think that the invitation to meet the Lord is not meant for him or her. Jesus will not disappoint those who take the risk to encounter Him. “Whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 3).
An encounter with Christ can come in any way that the Holy Spirit leads. Jesus comes to meet us in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist; Sacred Scripture; prayerful meditation and reflection, when we not only speak with Him but also listen for His voice; and in our brothers and sisters. Encounters with Christ will transform us when we are open to conversion. Growing in our faith involves our personal response to Christ’s reaching out to us. It often means a change in mind and heart. We become “missionary disciples,” men and women who imitate the Lord by following the pattern of His life and “going out” to share the joy of the Gospel with others.
The word “accompany” in the context of living our faith has two facets. The first recognizes that it is not possible to believe on our own. “Faith is not simply an individual decision which takes place in the depths of the believer’s heart, nor a completely private relationship between the believer and the divine” (Lumen Fidei, 39). We cannot live as disciples alone. We need others to model lives of discipleship and accompany us as we grow in the spiritual life and experience ongoing conversion. All of us need to be “accompanied” in our journey of faith by the community of faith that embraces and supports us.
The second facet of “accompany” challenges us “to love and respect others in such a way that invites each person to a deeper relationship with Christ and a greater alignment of their lives to his teachings” (Living as Missionary Disciples: Resources for Evangelization, p. 14). Pope Francis reminds us that accompaniment is being present to others. “Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way” (The Joy of the Gospel, 46).
When we consider our responsibility to accompany others we cannot forget those on the peripheries, those who are often forgotten, neglected, and isolated from others. Our brothers and sisters, especially the “least among us,” are the face of Christ. We are called to be with them and to reach out to them through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
It is good for us, from time to time, to examine how we are living our faith. This spiritual “reality check” reminds us that formation in our faith is a life-long endeavor. All of us were marked with the sign of faith at our baptism. From that moment until the end of our earthly pilgrimage, we have a responsibility to nurture this gift, grow in our understanding of revealed truth and the teachings of the Church, assess daily situations and challenges through the lens of faith, and share our faith with others.
In all our efforts to know, live, and share our faith, let’s keep in mind the power of personal witness to draw others to the faith. “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Paul VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, 41). May we all renew our commitment to be credible witnesses to the gift of faith we have received.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.