Today, many of us look upon our faith as a safety net – something to fall back on; rather than what faith should be – the foundation upon which our Christian lives are built.
The Gospel of today sets up the question to challenge us:
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival…You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Luke 12:37, 40)
We’ve all experienced it. We’re expecting a friend or relative, and they arrive much earlier than planned. We find ourselves scrambling to accommodate them. We feel uncomfortable – out of our element. Naturally, our friend/relative is gracious, and lets us off the hook pretty easily. But in reading today’s Gospel, several questions came to mind: Am I ready for the day of the Son of Man’s coming? What if the Lord came today? Or in my sleep? Or while I’m at the grocery store? Would I be ready to receive Him?
A growing mentality in our society approaches such questions like a trapeze walker with a safety net. She knows if she falls, her injury will be limited, and she will be able to climb up the tower and walk again the fine line. Do we live our faith in this way? Society tells us to do what we want, what feels good; what is convenient. For instance, the media propagates, “go ahead, have sex”; “worried about pregnancy – use contraception”; “what? got pregnant anyway? there’s always option of abortion”. And when an so-called “inconvenience” becomes a consequence of our choices, society gives us a solution for that – anything to allow us to get back on the tightrope and enjoy the “good life”.
The problem with such a way of thinking, is that our actions always have consequences outside of ourselves. There is more damage done than the so called “problem” at hand. Something that, unfortunately, not even our national leadership understands. This safety net mentality has stretched beyond societal issues, but has become a modus operandi for how many approach their relationship with God. At times of trouble, we get on our knees and turn to God for assistance. We see examples of this on large scales (Churches were full after 9/11; and people in Haiti put aside their voodoo practices and sought out the “Big God” of their fallen away Catholic faith following the earthquake). We see it on the individual level too, when serious illness strikes, or a loved one is in an accident, our hearts turn to God begging for his help. In these moments, we are shaken from our apathy, but overtime we find ourselves reverting back to the way things were before. It is not enough to turn to God until things seemingly get better; this only makes God a safety net – not your foundation. What must we do to strengthen our foundation of faith?
As anyone who has built structures will tell you, you build a shoddy foundation, you get a building that may be beautiful, but will not hold up under stress. A good foundation takes time and effort. So it is with building a firm foundation in faith.
- Prayer. Talk with God often. Daily. Hourly. Like any relationship, our relationship with the Lord must be cultivated. Use simple prayers, one-liners, to accompany you throughout the day: “Jesus, I Love you” works well. As does, “Have mercy on me, Lord, a poor sinner.” The point of these small prayers is to turn our spiritual compass back back towards the Cross – the Spiritual North, which leads our feet closer to the Lord.
- Read the Bible. Know the Lord through listening to His Word. This becomes a way to know what is pleasing to God, and to become more aware of His Divine purpose for your life. The Sacred Scriptures are also a good prayer manual, full of words to instruct the heart; edify the soul; teach the mind the way of prayer and praise.
- Become Sacramental. Go to confession and communion often. These two fountains of grace will assist you in unexplainable ways to grow in your spiritual life. Be attentive of the presence of Christ in the sacraments, and make small acts of faith, such as, “Jesus, I do believe you are truly present in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar”.
- Become Marian. Mary is the perfect example for the Christian life, having embraced so fully in her own life the Will of the Father for all humanity. Mary taught us obedience in her words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) When we pray, asking Mary to intercede for us, we have a strong advocate on our side, who prays according to the will of the Father.
- Read/Watch wholesome stuff. This goes hand in hand with saying small prayers. We progress on the path of true holiness with the rate we feed our minds and hearts and souls with good, nourishing Christian food, in images we see, dialogue we hear, words we say.
Little by little these small things will open the door of the heart, so that it knows how to embrace what is good and reject what is evil. And a byproduct of these efforts to grow in our faith will be an increase of our openness to the workings of the Holy Spirit directing us, helping us to construct a foundation that will withstand the toughest of storms.
Many today won’t take up the invitation to give themselves over to Jesus until tragedy strikes close to home. They know that God is there when they need Him. It is true, God showers his gifts upon the good and the bad (Luke 5:45). But it is also true that the day of reckoning will come when we least expect it – “like a thief in the night” Saint Peter tells us (2 Peter 3:10). But if our feet are not firmly planted on a foundation of faith on that day, we can hope all we want for our safety net to catch us. This is a pretty presumptuous position isn’t it? Yes, too often we presume God is there for us, but we are only fair whether friends in reverse. We are the grown child who only speaks to his father when we need something from him. What shall our inheritance be in the end? Are we sure our safety net will save us?