These past weeks we’ve been looking at Advent through a missionary lens. We began
with the figure of John the Baptist, and then last week
we looked at what it means to share your faith.
We have to be always prepared to share our faith.
I hope that you remember, several years ago, Pope Benedict XVI invited us all to celebrate a Year of Faith
. For the whole year we were encouraged to do three things: Learn about our faith, live our faith, and share our faith. I suspect that most of you did not take up the challenge. I remember posting a new challenge on my Facebook page every week for the whole year. One week it may have been to learn about a particular saint or a particular church teaching. Another week it was to do something for someone. Another week it was to find a nice quote to post on your social media. These were all simple things that we could all be doing to learn about our faith, to live it and to share it.
We have to learn about our faith.
It’s not enough to go to Mass on Sundays and pay attention to the homily. If that’s all we do, that means that we are only getting 8-15 minutes of “teaching” a week. It’s no wonder most Catholics don’t know their faith!
We have to read Scripture.
It’s not enough to only listen to the readings once a week a Mass. We have to read Scripture; we have to study it. Everyone reading this post should be reading Scripture every day. When we read Scripture, we should do so with a study guide so we can understand what we are reading. I use a publication by Liturgical Press called Give Us This Day
. As well as a simplified Morning and Evening Prayer (which I don’t use because I do the full version), each day offers a saint or inspiring person, the daily readings, and a reflection on those readings. It gives me a little something to nourish my faith each morning. It means that I am reading the same readings that anyone around the world would be listening to if they go to daily Mass and I am reading a reflection from a contemporary author or Church Father, saint, or pope on the readings. Most days I finish with a new understanding or insight.
We have to study what the Church teaches.
We also have to understand it so we can teach it. This is a bit easier for me because my job requires that I am looking at what the Church teaches so I can explain it to others. But you can all do the same. I am not suggesting that you need to go get a theology degree (you can; I don't have one) or read and study all the Papal Encyclicals (you can; I haven't). But do you have a Catechism of the Catholic Church
? Do you ever look at it? The Catechism can be found online
, but there is great value in owning a copy. Do you have the Compendium
of the Catechism (its “question/answer” format is useful in finding things by topic; get it from your Episcopal Conference). Maybe a YouCat or DoCat
version of the Catechism is good for you.
At the very least, you should know what those are.
Living our faith may be the easiest of the three for most of us. We do charitable works, we send money and resources to the victims of natural disasters in other countries. Maybe some of you volunteer for the Vincent de Paul Society
in your parish or you belong to the Knights of Columbus
or Catholic Women's League
or similar groups. Some people help out at the food bank or soup kitchen. Especially at Christmas time, many of us engage in extra charitable work or make donations. We need to do it all the time.
But living our faith also means less gossiping and less time wasting. It means more time outdoors with God’s creation. It means lending an ear to someone at work who needs it (especially if they are the annoying person at work). Those are all ways to show people we are Christian by our love.
Lastly, we have to share our faith. In order to do that, as I said last week, words are necessary! It’s not just sharing our faith with our family and close friends, although that’s a good place to start. We are called to go out and share our faith with strangers (I grant you that this is not easy). Pope Francis keeps telling us to go to the peripheries, to the margins. The doors of the Church have to be open so that people can go out. That is what the Church calls missio ad gentes
: mission to those who are outside.
We have to go out to the wilderness.
Advent readings are often about that: That beautiful prophecy from Isaiah 11:1-10 is for “all the nations.” They’re not just for the Jewish people. It says that:
On that day, the root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
the Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.
And Paul writes to the Romans (Rom 15:4-9) that the promise is not just for the circumcised, the Jews. He writes:
…Christ became a minister of the circumcised
to show God's truthfulness,
to confirm the promises to the patriarchs,
but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
As it is written:
Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles
and sing praises to your name.
It’s for the Gentiles, for everyone! Not just for those in the Church.
And what does John the Baptist say to the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Gospel of Matthew? “Don’t think that salvation is just for you because you are children of Abraham”
(Mt 3:1-12). Salvation has come for everyone – not just for those in the Church!
But we have to go and get them. We are happy being the ones listening to the voice crying out in the wilderness, but we have to become
the voice in the wilderness. We have one mission: Go make disciples of all nations!
This week, ask yourself how much you know about the Faith; how much Scripture and Teaching could you explain to others; and how are you living your faith?
Next week let’s look in more detail at how you can begin to share your faith.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org