During this year of faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict the XVI, I have been looking more deeply into faith and how it affects us in our lives. Sunday marks the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and I noticed an important correlation between our baptism and our faith. We know that faith is a gift given to us by God and I believe that it is shrouded in mystery and is fragile.
The gift of faith can be compared to being given a plant. It needs to be nurtured, given food and water, pruned and placed in a good environment, protected from the elements that threaten it, the same care and attention should be given to our faith. This past year people have told me that they feel as though they have lost their faith, and this greatly troubles me. Some have stopped going to church, others have lessened their routine of prayer, and stopped most activities of spiritual nourishment. A few reasons have been, because their opportunities to serve in ministry were taken away from them, and felt that by doing these good deeds they would be blessed and brought closer to God. This is sad, because God’s love and blessings are not contingent upon our good deeds. Others have said, God didn’t answer their prayers and now their marriage ended and their children have no mother or father. A loved one has died when they believed they would be healed. The most frequent reason, which is based on an age old question, “why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” They just can’t fathom a God who could allow this. Something that has mystified Christians, including myself, for centuries. All of these reasons have one thing in common” suffering”. Some can rise above the suffering in their lives, and some become broken, and lose their way.
If we look at Jesus baptism, we learn that the the occurring of the tearing open of the heavens is a parallel of the tearing of the veil at the crucifixion. In Mark 10:38 Jesus tells John and James, “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” This question is for all of us and it implies suffering. As we were drowned in the waters of baptism and death of Christ, we are also raised with him too. This is the good news. If we can learn to embrace our sufferings, through our faith, we will strengthen it, holding our faith on the foundation of rock and rise to everlasting life.
Some Christians want to believe that walking with Jesus means you are blessed and you won’t receive any suffering and this is simply not true. There is no escaping suffering, especially if we walk in discipleship. Matt 16:24 Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
During this year of faith, there are wonderful opportunities to focus on nurturing our faith, and strengthening it. Churches are offering great resources and Scripture studies, retreats, missions, volunteer opportunities, etc. It would be to your advantage if you could fit them into your schedules. I find that they benefit me and also show me God’s power working in everyday life, in the people of faith around me. It’s in this everyday experience I see miracles and each of those miracles are attached to acts of love. This love is in each one of us and when expressed takes us from living to being alive. Luke 17:6 “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. Image what we can accomplish, during this year of faith, if we take the time to nurture the gift freely given by our beloved God?