Summer in this New Year is bringing forth its very best in our part of the world. The brightness and brilliance of the season’s colours warm the soul, and everyone can feel it. People are smiling. People are more magnanimous. People come alive. We can see the fullness of life in the glory of nature around us. We notice things when they are vivid and vibrant – they pop out at us and demand our attention. Light and heat makes us feel strong. Summer does not hide the splendour of God which shines through it.
The same can be said for the vastness of the seas and oceans, broad landscapes which stretch out beyond the horizon, fiery sunsets, and deep blue skies. Why do these things hold us in awe? Because they are deep and meaningful, and they allow us to see the Lord’s creation at its dazzling best.
The same can be said of our lives as Catholics. We all have our Winter times when we go through doubt, crisis, and loneliness, but others should still see our hope and faith alive in Christ, no matter what. Sometimes it seems like we are living in a perpetual Winter in the Catholic family, and our souls and mind feel numb, too timid to speak up. Many of us are not defending the importance of the teachings of the Catholic Church in our times. Are we painting the faith over with colours of grey in order to blend in with secular society? What are we hiding for? Why aren’t we shining for Christ? Are we people who are wading in shallow waters, embarrassed by the teachings of the Bible, or are we diving in and going all out for Christ?
Sometimes I reflect back on my posts and hope that they have helped others in positive ways. While some of these writings contained a bit of finger wagging or fire and brimstone, there are no regrets. It is important to be vibrant thinkers who not only read about and contemplate our faith, but who are doers in the real world around us, for ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:14-26).
Humanity needs a wakeup call or at least some strong reminders of who we are in this life and what we are here for. Many of us have forgotten God or need a boost in our faith – even lifelong Catholics. While I love the fluffy, joyful posts – there is much to be thankful for in life – frankly, the Church and its people are in trouble. We need a deeper conversion to Christ and we need it now. We need a Church which is alive and filled with people of all ages, vocations, abilities, and especially the poor and humble (who can teach us about what really matters).
Many of us have adopted the ways of the secular world, accepting compromises to water down the Church’s teachings, and we don’t stand up to defend Christ’s word enough. We may often pick and choose the teachings we like and ignore those we don’t, or bend the rules. How may we be doing this, even unconsciously? If someone criticizes a particular teaching of the Church do you call it out and uphold Christ’s ways, or do you just smile and be silent? Do you allow yourself to be angry about injustices and want to help bring the Church to purity through fidelity to Jesus? Do you ask the Holy Spirit to send down His fire of love on us? Do you pray and ask God to help you be His advocate? Do you pray the Rosary or make excuses to avoid prayer? Do you call on the Virgin Mary and the saints to help the world? Do you truly believe in Christ’s presence in the Eucharist? Do you believe that miracles are still possible in our modern times? Do you acknowledge that the devil is real and is at work in our world and even in our Church?
This is the deep stuff which many of us don’t want to talk about. These questions and reflections sound harsh and possibly even judgmental, but how can the Church ever be cleansed and made new if we, its people, do not want to examine our lives and ask the difficult questions of ourselves and each other?
Many of us spend time in January reflecting on the past year and welcome new beginnings. We clean our bodies, maybe even get a haircut, and put on fresh clothing. But if we – the Catholic family – do not have the fortitude to face up to our individual and collective apathies and vow to change our habits, confess our sins, and humbly ask God for help, then nothing will ever change. We will remain lukewarm and fewer people will go to Mass and receive the Sacraments – they will look at us and ask ‘What for? I cannot see God alive in that person?’
Being a shallow Catholic is dangerous for our souls. We need to let go of remaining on the shore – that is, putting our trust in the false promises of the world – and dare to swim out to Christ, our rock, standing on the water with His arms outstretched. He is beckoning us to dive in with abandon and embrace Him. Once we grab hold of His hand we will not be buffeted by storms or drown, because we are confident in Him alone.
We simply cannot live in the shallows – one foot in the water and the other on land. We must embrace Christ and all of His teachings wholeheartedly by jumping in. We must throw our whole selves into the depths of His love and wisdom, even if we feel unprepared or inadequate to do so. What is there to fear or be embarrassed about if Christ is with us?
This moment, this day, this month, and always, you are the one who can choose to be either all in with Christ or not. Stand up for your Catholic faith and show it! Be a proud disciple of Christ this year – more than ever before. Your commitment to Jesus and His teachings needs to be alive, not built on sand! Step out and dive into the depths of His love this new year.