Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Living Out our Faith Takes Work

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Living Out our Faith Takes Work

Living Out our Faith Takes Work

Twice a year, the Catholic Church celebrates what is called an “Octave,” or an 8-day celebration because of the magnitude of the event. These occur at Christmas and Easter.

In Easter, all of the readings are from after the resurrection, and some are duplicated in the following Sundays. It takes on a very festive feeling after the solemn days of Lent, which the focus on the resurrection and triumph of Jesus over death.

Christmas certainly is festive too. But you find some days in there that certainly don’t seem all the festive.

For instance the 26th is Saint Stephen’s Day; Stephen being the first martyr of the faith. The 28th we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents who were killed by Herod. The 29th is the feast of Thomas Becket who was killed by the English king’s knights in a power struggle. And when we get to today’s feast of the Magi, while it is often depicted as three astrologers from the East who come to see Jesus, the journey was certainly very difficult and took quite some time to make. There’s a lot to unpack, but when we look at the Octave of Christmas, we can get an understanding of how the faith is really a journey in so many ways with some challenges we all have to face. Jesus has come to bring love and peace, but this is not without it’s challenges as following Him has a cost and entails sacrifice. That’s something good to think about as our Christmas season winds down and Ordinary Time begins this Tuesday.

One among them is the necessity of patience. One account of the Magi’s journey estimated it at 2 years. While we don’t know the exact length, it’s pretty obvious they couldn’t take a flight or a train. When we try to live out our faith, that can be tough. There can be spiritual dryness, where we don’t feel God’s presence. Then there’s the waiting we have to do too as we pursue our vocation; seminary took me 6 years and every married couple goes through ups and downs waiting to get married as they learn a relationship takes work. There’s patience too that is needed with other people as we hope for them to get more active in our faith; (on Saint Stephen’s Day we hear of a young man named Saul helps to kill Stephen who later goes on to become a saint). And patience with ourselves is needed too as we deal with the daily battle against sin. When we are patient though we realize that we don’t go from sinner to saint in a day but that it’s a journey – patience though has to be a part of it.

We also need to strive to help children on their faith journey, and a big part of this is being aware of what children go through, as parents, but all of us, share in helping young ones come to know who God is. Typically we think of childhood as a happy, carefree time. And certainly for many kids there is that part of it, and many of us look back on childhood with some great memories. But sadly, the reality is childhood also has many challenges too. Some children are never born at all; and we must strive to develop a pro-life mentality by working for an end to abortion and helping people to choose life, not thinking this issue something we can do nothing about. Following the Dobbs decision, we’ve heard so much from the pro-abortion movement, but pro-lifers need to be even more vigilant in changing hearts and minds. For even among Catholics, so many forget of the sanctity of human life as the pro-abortion movement uses words like “health care” and “fetus” and “reproductive freedom” to de-humanize the unborn. I’m so thankful for our strong pro-life group here at Saint Joe’s. Thanks to sidewalk counselors, pro-life centers, and groups who help people chose life, lives are saved each year. Some children also endure abuse. The clergy abuse scandal revealed what happened when people said nothing and ignored sin. But abuse is far more common in families, as there are many more families than priests, and as such we must all be vigilant in protecting children, reporting abuse anytime it’s suspected. More common though is children dealing with issues such as bullying and stress. When we become aware of these things we need to be there for kids to listen and affirm them. Kids also deal with a lack of faith formation in the home, which is why it’s so important to be involved and teach them the faith, take them to Mass, and pray with them. Even if you aren’t living under the same roof, by looking for opportunities to talk about the faith with them when you see them, or to spend time with them on the phone listening to them, it can do so much to help fan the flames of the faith. And of course just doing acts of love for your children and grandchildren does so much for them too.

We also must be aware that we too will be persecuted for the faith. There are aspects of our faith that are very counter-cultural or politically incorrect. As Catholics, we need to be aware of that and help others understand things like the sanctity of life in the womb; why we are against capital punishment; marriage as between a man and a woman; the needs of immigrants, etc. It’s important we don’t fear having discussions and arguments with others and engage those who aren’t active in the Church to we can help catechize and evangelize. The faith isn’t meant to be kept within the Church.

Remember, the feast of Epiphany reminds us that Jesus comes for all of us. As Catholics, we want to balance ecumenism, or working with people of other faiths, with the reality that Christ indeed did create one, not multiple churches. We can’t fear talking about our faith; and as we enter more into 2024, you’ll be hearing much more about the Synod in our Archdiocese, which will feature small groups for faith sharing with a long-term goal of evangelizing the world, helping Catholics to not be afraid to tell others about our faith and helping others to find the true and lasting happiness that comes from knowing God.

It’s also worth remembering that sacrifice as a part of life means so much as we live out the faith. As we start Ordinary Time, remember “ordinary” actions mean so much; the sacrifice of giving of your time to help others; the sacrifice of what is done for the family; the sacrifices of volunteering. Simple actions done with love are a powerful tool of evangelization.

Lastly, as life goes on, continually give Jesus the gift of yourself. Jesus accepts us as we are; and we give to him our acts of love and charity. But we also give to Him our sins and struggles. The infant Jesus stayed with Mary and Joseph after the Magi left, but the risen Christ the King journeys with us always after we leave Mass.

A popular saying is “wise men still seek Him” and that’s very true. The Christmas Story is one of God seeking us out – so let Him into your lives. The journey after we say “yes” to Christ isn’t an easy one. We’ll still have struggles along the way, and people might not like what we have to say. But we must never fear ourselves or the world or the future, for Jesus is with us always. So seek the King of Kings who seeks you, and help others to find Him.

God bless,  ~Fr. Paul

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January 2024

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