“Faith is the centerpiece of a connected life. It allows us to live by the grace of invisible strands. It is belief in a wisdom superior to our own. Faith becomes a teacher in the absence of fact.” (Terry Tempest Williams)
Many years ago, Pope John Paul, in an address given in the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, predicted that the economic inequalities which existed then would gradually worsen in the years to come and that these were symptomatic of ‘deeper needs impinging on the spiritual sphere.’
He went on to point out that materialistic ideologies on the one hand and moral permissiveness on the other, wrongly encouraged people to believe that it was possible to build a better society without the need of a loving God. And how prophetic his words have proved to be!
Here we are in the twenty-first century still living in times of escalating political and religious insecurity. There is no doubt that in this day and age, Catholics have been undergoing tremendous upheavals as they strive to overcome the evil and scandal of child sexual abuse, the unforgivable cover-ups and other social issues such as the legislation of abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage.
Along with these contentious matters, and others, the future of the Church with its drastic decline in regular Church attendance, especially young people, and the growing confusion about what to believe and what not to believe, appears to be far from optimistic.
And sadly too, there are many Catholics who are more than ready to express their own criticisms of the Church intimating that they believe the hierarchy has lost its sense of direction, is out of touch with community life or is too preoccupied with its own agenda, etc.
Yet, paradoxically, the notion persists that the Church still has something to offer a confused and struggling community.
Daily we are confronted with the negative side of life. Time-honoured traditions and values are being questioned and thrown out at an alarming rate so that people no longer have that solid, faith-based foundation which they experienced in the past.
This is not to say, however, that we should not question our faith. Many people struggle with the deep questions of life and the reasons for our existence. Anyone who grieves will have asked the ultimate question – ‘Why?’
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a great ethical thinker who lived out his belief in a loving God, observed: ‘There has never been a generation with so little ground under its feet… The great masquerade of evil has wrought havoc with all our ethical preconceptions.’ I wonder, sometimes, what he would say if he were still around today!
Our journey of faith is an ongoing process. As believers we face countless unanswered questions, doubts, uncertainties and skepticism. One of the biggest obstacles in our search for truth is reason.
As Martin Luther discovered: ‘Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has – it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not – struggles against the Divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.’
To put it bluntly, there are no simple answers to some of our most urgent questions. Even with professing a faith, it is not always easy to live authentic Christian lives in the context of modern-day thinking. This is not to say, however, that not allowed to question our faith.
I honestly think that God does not expect us to believe without our questioning anything that is outside our understanding. Surely our faith is only worthwhile if it is not afraid to question. And there are so many questions we could put to God.
Supposing all our questions were answered, then there would be no need for faith! In some ways the questions could become more important than the answers themselves. And what, in the long run, would that achieve?
All of this may seem very hard to understand and digest leaving us with a final question- why bother? But if we profess to believe in a loving God then we must ‘bother.’ After all, God ‘bothers’ about us every moment of our lives.
As Catholics, I believe we must faithfully ‘bother’ constantly to take every opportunity in experiencing just how keeping the faith can enrich our lives, strengthen us in our daily struggles, witness to others who do not yet believe, and finally to further justice and peace in this fragile world.