Do you ever wonder why it is that some people believe in God and take the practice of their faith seriously and others don’t? How is it that some people are converted and others are not? Why did I come back to my faith at 19 and many of my friends did not? Why did so many people listen to Jesus when he preached? Nobody knew who he was and he had no education to boast about and yet he gathered a huge following of people wherever he went. I am sure it was because he was preaching the truth and people’s spirits recognized this.
In 1917 at Fatima, 70,000 people saw the miracle of the sun, where it appeared to come crashing towards the earth. It was also lashing rain all morning, but after the miracle everyone and everything was bone dry. Yet people dismiss that as just being a strange event in the past. In Medjugorje today, many people have seen all kinds of miracles and yet so many people are skeptical and dismissive. Think of the miraculous image of Guadalupe, which is literally a living miracle, the many Eucharistic miracles and yet those who accept these things always seem to be in the minority.
Jesus continually spoke to the people in parables and one of the things that tells us is just how much God respects our intelligence and free will. You will only understand a parable if you are looking for the truth in it. God doesn’t just shove information down our throat, so to speak, rather, He invites us to search for the truth. If you are looking for it, you will find it, but it is up to each of us whether we choose to look for it or not and continue to look for it. A man said to me one time, “That whole story in Genesis about Adam and Eve taking an apple is ridiculous. Why would you believe that?” It is ridiculous if you take it literally and don’t search for the truth in it. In fact there are many profound truths there if you are willing to search and pray and ask God to show you.
The Word of God, the Scriptures, are filled with hidden treasures; all kinds of teachings to help and guide us, but we will only discover them if we are willing to search. God respects our free will and intelligence. God wants to show us so many things, but we will never see them unless we are interested and open. In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus said to the Apostles, ‘I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. But when the Spirit of truth comes, He will teach you everything’ (Jn 16:12). There were many things Jesus would have liked to show the Apostles, but the knowledge would have been too much for them. ‘But when the Spirit of truth comes…’ The Holy Spirit is now with us and will continue to show us things if we remain open. Keep asking the Lord to show you and teach you and you will be amazed what you will begin to see.
It makes me sad when I see so many people dismissive of religion, or they just don’t have time for it, but ‘they are good people in themselves.’ They may well be good people, but they are saying that God doesn’t matter, as if God were an optional extra. God is not an optional extra; we are. We would not be here except that God created us and holds us in existence. We ignore God at our own peril.
For some, opening themselves up to God may not be convenient, because there are so many other things to be doing: the seed that fell on the path. They see it at a distance, but are dismissive of it. Unfortunately there are a lot of people in that category in our world right now.
Religion can be interesting too, until it becomes an inconvenience to our lifestyle, or we are asked to make sacrifices, as the Lord asks us to: that is the seed that fell on rocky ground with little soil. It has no roots. You won’t survive without roots.
Our faith offers us great hope and helps us to understand not only what our life is about, but that God is also among us and interested in us in the most ordinary things. But if you remain focused on the world instead of God, then you will get choked by the worries and glamour of the world. If our main source of information is the news, the tv and the internet, then we can easily be swamped by the things of the world and overcome by fear of the things we see going on: the seed that fell among thorns.
But if we are open to seeing what God wants to show us, we will see it, because God wants to show us so many things. ‘Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you’ (Matt 7:7).
Rich soil only comes about with hard work and a lot of care; preparing the ground, getting rid of the weeds and stones. If the word of God is to grow in us, we have to make some effort to be ready for it and help it to grow. We are not going to grow in faith just by watching television. Jesus says, ‘Try to enter by the narrow gate. For the road that leads to hell is wide and spacious, but the road that leads to life is narrow.’ It may not be the most attractive road, but it is the most worthwhile one. If we want our relationship with God to grow, we must make it happen, by taking time to develop our faith, through prayer, reading the Scriptures, listening to God. It won’t happen without giving it time, a certain amount of time every day and there is always time, because we always give time to what is important to us. Would you expect a relationship with someone to grow without giving it any time? Of course not, and faith is no different.
I think we also have to be careful that we don’t come to the church with the mindset of ‘What will they have on for us today?’ Our coming to the mass each week is a combination of worshipping God, as God commands us to and trying to hear what God is saying to us. Ultimately, we get to receive the Body and Blood of Christ reminding us of how close the Lord wants to be to us.
Every so often when I want to go to confession I have found myself before a priest who I don’t particularly like, but I have no other option unless I want to put it off for another time. But that is when I try to remind myself that it is God’s grace and mercy I am seeking, even if the particular priest I find myself with is not who I would choose. I think that is also a good approach to the mass. It is important that we find ourselves a church which helps us to grow, but we also need to remind ourselves what it is we come for. It is not a form of religious entertainment, but our coming before God. It is better to go to a church that helps you to grow, even if it is not your own parish.
"Whoever has ears ought to hear."