What if someone told you that the Pope had written you a letter? As surprising as it may sound, he has done exactly that! Wondering why? Since the beginning, Jesus has entrusted us to the care of an earthly shepherd who wants to nurture and lead us back to the Father. We remember His words to Peter, “Feed my lamb…tend my sheep” (Jn 21:15-16). Pope Benedict XVI, as the successor of Peter, is that shepherd for us. And, taking his mission to heart, he has written an apostolic letter to the entire Church entitled Porta Fidei, or Door of Faith, which outlines his reasons for proclaiming this special year and what we can hope to gain by living it well.
In reading the Pope’s explanation of the “door of faith,” another image of a door immediately comes to mind. It’s one that is familiar to many and was likely inspired by words from the Book of Revelation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). This image of Jesus knocking has been depicted beautifully in art, but even more compelling is the idea that the door is the entrance to our hearts. Containing no handle, this door must be opened by each of us to the Lord; He never forces Himself on us. Pope Benedict assures us that “the door of faith is always open for us,”1 but are we always open to receiving Christ?
As Christians, we find ourselves living in a time when our values and beliefs are constantly being challenged and questioned. There was a time not so very long ago when Western culture adhered to Christian principles, and we could rightly assume that many people around us shared similar beliefs. Even if some didn’t overtly practice religion, unspoken rules of civility, manners, respect, and dignity permeated collective thought and influenced personal conduct. But that is no longer the case. Add to this phenomenon the emphasis placed on material wealth, the influence of the media, the redefining of marriage and family, and the ever-increasing pace of life, and we see why a “profound crisis of faith” has affected so many people.2
We hear the word faith quite often, yet because we use the word to mean many different ideas, we may not always understand what is intended. At the most basic level, faith can mean “anything believed,” but in reference to religion it is that “unwavering belief in God or a higher power.” Another way we use this word is to mean “confidence,” nearly synonymous with trust. But it can also mean “a system of beliefs,” such as our Catholic faith and all that entails. So what, precisely, is meant by a Year of Faith?
Clearly, this year has been set aside to encourage each of us individually and as a Universal Church to reflect on all of these aspects of faith, as they are inextricably connected. “Faith which is a personal trust in the Lord and the faith which we profess in the Creed are inseparable; they focus on each other and they require each other”.3 This Year of Faith, then, is an opportunity to examine just what we believe, what is important to us, and where we give our time and attention. It can be looking at the role we allow God to play in our lives: whether He is at the centre or just on the periphery. It’s a time to reflect on what our Church teaches and our understanding and living of those teachings. Regardless of where we may be in our lives, each of us can take this opportunity to go deeper. Like exploring the depths of the ocean or the far reaches of space, the richness of our Catholic faith and the mystery of Christ’s love challenge and entice us to keep searching, to know more.
At all times, the Church wants to give us the means to come to know, love, and live with Christ for all eternity. But in this confusing and busy world, we sometimes lose sight of what’s really important, what will truly matter in the end. Because none of us has “made it” yet, our faith must constantly be nurtured in order to persevere to the end. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns us about a thief in the night who will arrive when we least expect it.4 As the owner of the house, each of us must be attentive to what is going on under our own roofs, in our own souls. Have we made a home for Christ in our hearts, and if so, what is its condition? When we recite in the Mass, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”5 we recognize our sinfulness, our failings. Yet we complete this prayer with trust in God’s mercy, saying, “…but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”6
In this Year of Faith, Christ is waiting for us to turn to Him, to seek Him out, and to “rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples”.7 If we can “open wide the doors to Christ,” we also open ourselves up to rediscovering the true purpose and meaning of life and all its possibilities.8 Next week, look for some concrete and practical ways to live the Year of Faith.
– Kelley Holy
1Porta fidei, 1.
3Note with Pastoral Recommendations for the Year of Faith, Recommendations.
4Cf. Mt 24:42-51.
8John Paul II, Homily of the Inauguration of His Pontificate (22 October 1978).
Fr. Nathan Siray – “Vatican II – A Council Full of HOPE!” Thursday October 11, 2012. PDF VERSION
Fr. Cristino Bouvette – “The Evangelizers of the NEW EVANGELIZATION…” Thursday October 11, 2012. PDF VERSION