By Fr. Pablo Santa Maria
The importance of ongoing education about our faith.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis reminds the Church that she is called to be “permanently in a state of mission.” If we recall, some of the last words that Our Lord Spoke to His disciples before His Ascension was that they were to ‘make disciples of all nations.’ Often we think that the task of mission, the duty of making disciples is the sole the responsibility of the priests or missionaries, when indeed this is a central part of our baptismal vocation. All of us by virtue of our Baptisms have a prophetic duty to proclaim the Gospel. First in deed, by showing forth the love that has been poured upon us, but also in word; since we have the capability of explaining, to some degree, the mysteries of our faith.
Deepening our knowledge of the Catholic faith is especially important in today’s day and age. We live in a world that is largely indifferent or even antagonistic towards our faith. Many times, it’s because the message of our faith in the Gospel is intensely misunderstood. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that “There are not a hundred people in North America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” Part of our missionary vocation, is to properly understand as much as we can the mysteries of our faith so that we can help others to understand what our Church truly is, and ultimately to understand and explain what we believe.
Furthermore, it is helpful to continue deepening the knowledge of our faith, because who of us can say that we know everything our faith teaches? Even the greatest theologians will admit that the knowledge of our faith will always be very limited, because we are seeking to understand an unlimited God. But, perhaps the strongest reason for which we learn and deepen our knowledge of the faith is so that we can deepen our love for God. We cannot love someone of whom we don’t know. If all we have is a very cursory knowledge of the faith, how are we going to pass it on to others? How are we going to defend it when it is attacked? How are we going to live it in our life? And, how are we going to love God?
Our faith is a great gift from God. It is an act of personal entrustment. Faith is accepting God’s revelation, and entering into a personal relationship with him. It’s letting God reach out to us, and reaching back to him in return.
To accept the faith means that we accept everything that has been revealed to us; and even if some of these mysteries seem hard to understand, we accept them because we acknowledge the limitedness of our intellect. As Catholics, we may not understand everything but because of our faith we can still say ‘Credo, I believe’. This is not a capitulation but a humble realization of who we are.
However, just because faith is a gift, or because we are talking about infinite mysteries it does not mean that we do not do anything to further understand the mysteries of our faith. Of course, there will be many things that we can never fully understand. However, we should always try to get to know as much of the mysteries of our faith as our intellect allows us to. It is our duty as Catholics to know our faith better and to grow in the understanding of it. Most of us are very busy and we use this busyness as an excuse but all it takes is setting aside 15 or 20 minutes a day to read the Scriptures, study the Catechism of the Catholic Church or other Catholic publications. If we are able to devote some more time, one of the most fruitful way to enrich the knowledge of our faith is to learn it with others as part of a community.
The Cathedral gives us some great opportunities to deepen our faith through Bible studies and online resources that are available to parishioners. In the next few weeks we will be starting our second Bible study of the year: a study on St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. Last week parishioners also received an invitation to sign-up for FORMED, an online resource that will help them deepen their faith and will better equip them to answer difficult questions and defend their beliefs when necessary. We hope that you will take advantage of these resources and will play your role in changing Fulton’s Sheen’s number of “millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church,” to millions who love what the Catholic Church truly stands for.