Knowing Our Catholic Faith

We are now midway through the Year of Faith, which was designated so that we might revitalize our belief in the saving message of Jesus and his Church.  Many people have accepted this invitation, recognizing that they have forgotten certain aspects of the faith or, because of inadequate catechesis or cultural influences, never really learned it or understood it in the first place.  Identifying with the man in the Gospel who cried out to Jesus, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24), they now seek to learn the faith as if for the first time.

Then there are many others who are convinced that they already know the faith and it holds no interest for them.  But what they think they know is really a false image of Christ and the Church sometimes projected through the distorted lens of secularism.

It is the goal of the New Evangelization to help people rediscover the beauty of our Catholic faith.  The Good News once delivered to the Apostles still has the power to transform the world, one life at a time – my life and yours, our neighbors’ lives, our family members’ lives.  However, people cannot share what they do not have.  In order to speak about God to others, we must first know him ourselves, prayerfully, sacramentally and intellectually.  We must come to know the faith that is revealed to us and know what it means.  This brings fresh confidence in the truth and joy of the Gospel and, therefore, a fervor to share it with others.

As we strive to attain a comprehensive and systematic intellectual knowledge of the content of the faith, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is an indispensable tool. An equally good resource is the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.  These sources are complete and they are authentic.  Their content is not someone’s subjective opinion about what the Church believes or should believe.  Here we can find the true teaching of the Church proclaimed with authority by those who are responsible for guarding the integrity of the faith.

Admittedly, one might look at these comprehensive volumes, books about the saints, various spiritual works, or the length of the Bible and be intimidated and overwhelmed and think that it is all too complicated.  Deep down, the faith is quite simple.  We believe in God.  We believe he loves us.  We believe he sent his Son to save us.  We believe we are saved and offered eternal life by Jesus Christ who was crucified, died and is risen.  This is all summarized in the Creed we say at Mass on Sunday.

However, these propositions are more than words.  They are divine revelation by the living God.  Our Catholic faith, as comprehensively set out in the catechisms, or as summarized in the Creed, is not primarily about a set of facts, but about living truths.  Jesus came to earth not simply to publish information.  He came to reveal himself.

“This is how your faith grows – through encounter with a Person, through encounter with the Lord,” explained Pope Francis on the Vigil of Pentecost.  “Some people will say, ‘No, I prefer to read about faith in books!’  It is important to read about faith, but look, on its own this is not enough! What is important is our encounter with Jesus, our encounter with him, and this is what gives you faith because he is the one who gives it to you!”

The Good News of the Risen Christ offers humanity a different way of seeing life and the world around us.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Christian life is defined by an encounter with the Lord.

How do we come to know and encounter Jesus today?  The answer is found in the Body of Christ, the Church, where we can be nourished by the word of God and be healed and fortified by the sacraments.  Most crucial to the New Evangelization, we can know Jesus intimately in the Eucharist and we can receive his merciful love in the Sacrament of Penance.  With our lives renewed, in the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can more confidently and boldly spread the Gospel and manifest the kingdom of God in our world.

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