IThis write-up is a continuation of the last post with the same title but IV.
God does not grant every wish of man. We will not like the result. For instance, a man who makes his living selling coffins prays for business progress. To make the sale of a coffin implies the death of someone. Death hardly brings us happiness. But the coffin seller hopes to expand his business. Hoping to expand his business is of course normal. I leave you to imagine the rate of death if the wish of all coffin sellers, for instance, to become millionaires or billionaires in the business is granted. While we pray for our own good, many times out of selfishness, God is after the good of all. He does not satisfy our selfishness.
There is a mistaken belief by some Christians that faith exists as something to be exercised for the sole purpose of receiving something from God. This seems to grow out of a belief that God exists to provide whatever one asks. Hence, if one does not receive what has been asked, one gets angry and blames God. This attitude does not show the purpose of faith. God does not exist to serve man. Man exists to serve God. Even if we were never to ask God for anything, we would still need faith for faith is a bond with God.
You should have faith in God; you should nourish your faith; you should grow your faith. If you are impressed by faith then you will be prompted to share it. I do not see why matters of faith cannot be talked about anywhere. There is a spiritual part of man. He has a soul. A man therefore has a spiritual life. A man who disregards his spiritual life risks not fulfilling an essential part of himself. He may go about work and his social life but a void is present in him. St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” True happiness eludes the man who has no regard for his spiritual life. A man who cares about his spiritual life continually carries out self-examination. Self-examination can reveal to him the dark part of himself. Some people run away from this. They can get so distracted that they lead themselves to destruction. They do not know themselves and are unable to find themselves. Faith brings meaning to people’s lives. It can give hope to the hopeless, solace to the sorrowful, and bring health to the sick. Faith makes one experience the joy of living. It ought to spread the more for its beauty. It will do so when we live the faith.
The apostles and followers of Christ spread the faith effectively. It was in Antioch that they were first called Christians because their way of life corresponded to that of Christ. Christ went about doing good and showing love with his words and actions. Many Christians today talk about Christ, preach Christ, but their lives deny Christ. It is a problem in Christianity. The duplicity of the lives of many is hypocritical. I do not write this to discredit the good work that some true Christians are carrying out with their lives. The hypocrites however leave the church open for attacks. Such duplicity undermines the faith. Someone most likely is observing that you say one thing and do the opposite. That person is not willing to join your faith if he is not a member. The faith that some laid down their lives to pass to us is prevented from spreading by duplicity – Mr. A in the church and Mr. B elsewhere. Some have even left the church after observing some highly placed men in the church live like hypocrites. But our relationship with God, our knowledge of God should influence our actions whether at home, work, church, wherever. It is not enough to know about God. We all should know God. It is in knowing God that we experience him and it is only when we experience him that we see a transformation in the way we live. Then life takes on a different but wonderful meaning.
In our religion, we should balance our rites with service. I see our rites as reflecting our vertical relationship with God. But we also have a horizontal relationship with our neighbours. The effect of our faith is manifested in our service to our neighbour. Rites without service may have us mechanizing our religion which will be ineffective. When you forgo the rites and opt for service alone, your work may become your god. Our work should be the fruit of a life rooted in God. The work should not be the tree. The tree should be your faith in God and your work the fruit that this tree produces.
When ebola virus disease broke out in Nigeria in 2014, the optional rite of exchanging the sign of peace through the shaking of hands during Mass was suspended. A good number of Catholics saw this as a faithless decision. They argue that one with faith has no reason to fear ebola; with faith ebola cannot infect one. Where is the power of the Eucharist? But Noah was aware of God’s power yet he built an ark that would save him and his family from the flood. Abraham believed God and did what was necessary to make a baby with his wife. It is worth mentioning that Abraham is our father in faith. These two men had faith yet they used their reason and played their roles. God gave us reason and expects us to put faith in action. I believe that faith and reason meet at some place. They intersect. Sometimes two things that seem contradictory are really not. Insight can reveal that both are connected. Christians have to open their minds without putting away reflection unlike many so-called bible-believing Christians who prefer to base their beliefs on feelings without praying and reflecting through the bible.
There is a need that has become pressing – the need to allow God into our lives and let God be God. When we do this, our thoughts and actions change. On the contrary what most of us do is to keep God at a safe distance because we are not ready to change. Metanoia becomes necessary. “Biblical theology tells us that metanoia is a deep change of heart and thinking; a complete reorientation toward God which results in a new pattern of actions and reactions. It is our total surrender to God with a firm determination to fulfill God’s will in all things.”5
Peter G. van Breemen, SJ, describes metanoia as an overhaul of our priorities. He explains:
A car, or any other delicate instrument, requires regular checkups. All the more an occasional tuning is required for our conscience, that “still quiet voice within” that regulates our entire life. Over the years our priorities shift without our even noticing it. We may honestly believe that certain values have a high priority in our life, while infact they have slipped down considerably; yet we think that they still rank high. Similarly, we may believe that certain values do not mean much to us, yet imperceptibly they have taken over much of our way of choosing and acting. Whoever has not gone into this matter carefully for some time will be in for some big, and probably unpleasant, surprises.
False priorities shield us from the love and will of God; they are all the more effective the less conscious we are of them. They build in us that defence mechanism through which the word of God can hardly penetrate. The heart of sin is that we do not let ourselves be loved by God; in other words, since God is love, that we do not let God be God. Normally, this refusal to let God be God, be love, does not happen explicitly, but through our lifestyle, which in turn is determined by the order of our priorities. Metanoia, then, is to face this order and to correct it. This may seem harmless, yet it tackles basic behavioural patterns which we may experience as gratifying and may rationalize to a great extent.
It is to this metanoia that Jesus consistently calls us. He makes it the condition for our faith in him, for becoming his disciple.6
- Peter G. van Breemen, SJ, Let All God’s Glory Through, 1995, St. Pauls, Bandra Mumbai, 31
- Ibid., 32-33