It is Sunday, evening settling slowly on a gray day, the echoes of hours well spent now drifting into memory. In this mysteriously quiet moment, words from this morning’s Mass return. “The world needs us! The world needs us to show love, to be the virtue of love, to reveal God through that love….Young people are walking away from faith and religion…” The power of the homily struck over and over throughout this day.
First, there was the homilist’s certainty that faith is a gift to the world. This contrasted sharply with the stigma that the word carries in our continually evolving culture, with the disdain of youth and the indifference of the disillusioned. Here was a person who was neither apologetic nor disingenuous. Here was a person who was reminding an early morning congregation about the very thing that brought us together in the first place.
Second, there was a conviction that the identity of Catholicism is worth sharing. Not because it is Catholicism, but because it is a pathway to love. Catholicism is anchored in the teachings of Jesus, in the demands of the Gospel. Here was a person clearly articulating that love is a virtue, a connection, emotion and action. Love is sourced in Christ, and we come to know Christ through one another. Catholicism invites us to welcome each other, to be Christ to one another. To love one another.
Catholicism is at the very core of being; it has shaped thinking and professional choices, practices and lifestyle. But saying that, for me, points to faith and to love. It is about being the Hands and Heart of Christ for others, and gratefully accepting others being the Hands and Heart of Christ for me. It is about recognizing the infinite pathways of others and the simple pathway of self. It is about doing the right thing and trusting that the right thing can be found through prayer and those Hands and Hearts. It is about knowing that our worlds are self-defined and moving beyond the comfortable is necessary, being challenged in dialogue and conversation is simply part of the journey.
But returning to sacred space, to kneel in humility, that is essential. Because you are not there alone; there are generations who knelt there before you, who grappled with what it meant to be human in their time. Faith in God is nurtured in both the quiet contemplative moments and the traditons and the rituals of a community. Faith in a goodness that is the actual common denominator in human life means recognizing the Christ who is there in all of us. Nurturing that relationship comes through being part of a broader community, a church.
In a world that denigrates religious institutions and portrays faith as a vehicle of ignorance, it takes courage to even explore what it means to be a person of faith. There are stereotypes and discrimination, and the seemingly endless sream of scandals which emerge from the hierarchy. And yet, there is the insistent call. There is the reality that “The world needs us…” Such as we are, the world needs us.