If you are reading this blog article, it would seem likely that your faith means something to you. It likely means faith is more for you than just going to church on Sunday for one hour. The time spent at Mass is essential. It leads us to live out our faith beyond the hour.
You might ask yourself, “what does your faith mean to you?” Maybe you already know the answer or maybe it is rooted in family tradition for you. Someone people go to church their whole lives because it is what they were raised to do. This doesn’t mean that your faith isn’t more than just going to church on Sunday. It simply means it is the experience you grew up. Our experiences are an important part of shaping who we are.
To change the question a little, let’s move from asking, “what does your faith mean to you” to “why does it mean something to you.” The answer may be rooted in our experience(s) of God.
As I already mentioned, it might be rooted in family experience of faith. However, not everyone who grew up going to church with their family still goes. Maybe you are someone who stopped going to church at some point in your life. Why did you stop going? Perhaps it is because of a bad experience with the church. If you have been a victim of wrongdoing, I am sorry. Perhaps more likely is that your experience of church as a child was not one of depth. We went because that is what we were told to do. A seed had been planted but it had not yet sprouted.
So, then what brought you back? Or, if you have always gone to church, what experience of faith have you had to has led you to a deeper faith?
Was there a particularly joyous moment in your life that spoke to you?
Or perhaps it was a very difficult moment. The loss of a loved one can have a profound effect on us. I have seen people return to practicing their faith after the death of a loved one.
The same can be true with a severe illness. We receive a serious diagnosis that we cannot face on our own. We turn to God. God is right there waiting for us with open arms.
Perhaps you returned to practicing your faith because of seeing a miracle. It might be a big and obvious miracle. It might also be so small a miracle that many might take for granted but it means something much deeper to you.
It might be a profound moment in prayer which made you aware of God’s presence. This might involve moving to a deeper understanding of prayer (This Thursday I start a series of three presentations on prayer. You can find out more at http://blog.renewaloffaith.org/blog/?p=6933 ). For instance, we know when to stand, kneel, and sit at Mass. We know what to say and when to say it at Mass. However, do we understand why we do these things? Do we appreciate what these customs mean? (For more on the Mass, see my video series, Uncovering the Treasures of the Mass.)
Our personal experiences of faith are a very important part of what our faith means to us. Our collective experiences of our faith are also important.
I was not at the Crucifixion 2,000 years ago. None of us were. However, that does not mean we have not experienced the Crucifixion in a meaningful way. We recall the Passion that Jesus endured for us during Holy Week in the reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. We feel the effect of the Crucifixion when we repent of our sins and receive God’s forgiveness. We celebrate the Sacrifice that Jesus makes for us every time we celebrate Mass.
Likewise, no one us alive today was at Jesus’ Resurrection. However, we understand that the empty tomb as a good thing because it means Jesus is risen. Death is not victorious! This is at the heart of our hope when a loved one dies. We know Jesus to be the Resurrection and the life (see John 11:25). After his Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples so that we might know what it means to rise.
What experiences of faith have you had? Is there a way that God is calling you to share your experience(s) with others that will help them know God’s love for them?
Remember, as we hear Paul say in today’s first reading, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Romans 8:18).