I believe in God! These words we pray in the Creed at Mass are simple but they open to us the mysteries of our faith and our relationship with the Lord. So in professing our faith, we need to understand that believing in God means that we align ourselves with him and the acceptance of his word, writes Leslie Tomlinson, the Bishop of Sandhurst.
Pope Benedict gave us a great gift in announcing the Year of Faith. In fact, the ability to say that we believe in God is a gift, but we need to remember that it is also a commitment. Believing in God thus makes us both bearers and messengers of values that often do not coincide with the fashion and opinion of the moment in our globalised world.
Belief in God requires us to adopt criteria and assume forms of conduct that may not be part of the common mindset. However, we know from our study of the New Testament, that Christians must not be afraid to go ‘against the current’ in order to live their faith. We are called upon to resist the temptation to ‘conform’, and this requires a relationship with God.
Each Lenten Season calls us to renew our relationship with the Lord, who is so very essential in our lives. It may be that the distance between ourselves and God has grown greater, or the pressures of life have distracted us from living our faith. As we move through Lent, let us pause, rekindle our faith; refocus and renew our efforts.
‘In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins’ (Acts 5:31).
The past year has brought bewilderment and some anger. As individuals and as members of the Church, we have all been affected by the tragic crimes of sexual abuse perpetrated by some of our fellow Catholics and the devastation it has wrought upon innocent people. Some have found this a real test of Faith.
As Catholics, we have also been singled out for harsh media criticism for the stance that we take on the sacredness of human life through our rejection of abortion and euthanasia. Furthermore, there is indifference and even constant criticism of our promotion of chastity and our insistence that the question of same sex marriage cannot be reduced to merely an issue of equality.
The biological difference between the genders and the fundamental aspect of marriage between a man and a woman being open to the procreation of children cannot be ignored.
Another emergent issue of concern is the ill-preparedness of many to embrace forgiveness. What is fundamental to our faith is God’s infinite love of us, particularly demonstrated in his loving forgiveness and his enormous mercy. A prayerful reflective reading of the beautiful Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) will bring much comfort to us, encouraging us to place ourselves at the mercy of God in seeking forgiveness and mercy for our own failings.
We can ask for grace and strength to imitate God in our readiness to forgive those who have offended us. This indeed, is in faithfulness to what we pray in the Our Father.
Furthermore, in this Year of Faith, there is need to recognize our commitment to evangelization, in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. St Paul tells us ‘it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize (2 Cor 5:14). In His Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei (7), our Holy Father reminds us of the words of St Augustine: ‘believers strengthen themselves by believing’.
As we know, Augustine’s life was a continual search for the beauty of the faith until such time as his heart would find rest in God. His extensive writings, in which he explains the importance of believing and the truth of the faith, still help many people in search of God to find the right path towards the ‘door of faith’ (Acts 14:27)
We are urged to become people of deeper faith. It is only by accepting God’s unconditional love that we sinners can journey on. Remembering Saint Peter and his denial of Christ, we can be confident, that no matter how we fail, it is never too late to start again.
May the Lord be with you constantly throughout this Lent, gracing you with a deep faith, and an increasing sense of His presence in your life. May His love encourage and give you strength; and I pray earnestly that the God of all consolations be with us all in this our special Year of Faith.
Bishop Leslie Tomlinson is Bishop of Sandhurst.