YEAR OF THE FAITH - 0CTOBER
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“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”
(1 Peter 3:15)
Helping Catholics to reflect on the truths of their faith.
Mary and the saints are put before us by the Church as examples of faith to inspire us. Sometimes in the midst of the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of daily life we can feel as if their experience is very different from ours. Yet they are saints because of their response to life rather than despite it. In reading these materials you considered the ways in which Mary “persevered” in faith.
The Year of Faith would seem to be an ideal time both to give thanks for the faith that sustains us and to rededicate ourselves to sharing our faith, because we know that living without faith would be so much harder.
If you have some people to share with, and you feel comfortable to do so, share a time when your faith, that submission of intellect and will, helped you in your life. If alone, speak to God about how you have experienced his presence and help in your life.
Some people would argue that it was easier in the past to be a believer, when faith in God seemed to be shared by the majority. The statistics about belief today are bit more ambiguous: many people claim to believe in the existence of “God” but do not consider belonging to or being involved in the life of a community of faith as being important.
What are the difficulties that we have as believers today?
The Pope makes the point that faith comes from the encounter with Christ. Part of the mission of the church is to make that encounter possible. How have you encountered Christ in the community of faith we call the Church? Have you any experience of people encountering Christ in other ways? How does your parish help people come to faith ?
My soul glorifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
The Almighty works marvels for me.
Holy his name!
His mercy is from age to age,
on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength
and scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones
and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things,
sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant,
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his sons for ever.
Perhaps in this month of the Holy Rosary you might use some the decades to reflect more on your own journey of faith and to pray for those who haven‟t yet discovered the joy of believing.
The Annunciation: That all might say “Yes” to God‟s invitation.
The Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call to Con-version: That we might have the courage to share our faith.
The Agony in the Garden: For those who are struggling with God‟s will.
Pentecost: For a fresh outpouring of grace on the Church and all her members.
The Coronation of Mary Queen of Heaven, and the Glory of All the Saints: For a recognition that all are called to holiness, all are called to be saints.
Pope Benedict urges us to entrust this time of grace to the Mother of God, proclaimed “blessed because she believed” (Lk 1:45). The month of October is associated with the rosary, „the epitome of the whole Gospel‟, as Pope Paul VI called it (MC 42). Let us begin the Year of Faith by exploring the life of faith with the help of Mary, the woman of faith.
We read in Sacred Scripture about Mary‟s faith. She had faith to accept the vocation that God had prepared for her, and as we see in the second passage, our acceptance of the will of God in our lives makes us part of the Church, the family of God.
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin‟s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, „Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.‟ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, „Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God‟s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High…‟ Mary said to the angel, „But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?‟ „The Holy Spirit will come upon you‟ the angel answered „and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God…‟ „I am the handmaid of the Lord,‟ said Mary „let what you have said be done to me.‟ And the angel left her. Luke 1:26-38
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my
brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)
Question for reflection:
Many people say that they can believe but don‟t need to belong to the church. What would you say to someone that holds that position?
Documents of Vatican II
The Year of Faith marks 50 years since the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. In Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict said, “I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.” In this passage from the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, it describes Mary as advancing on her pilgrimage of faith. As you read it, let the events, many of them familiar from the mysteries of the rosary, invite you to meditate on the sure compass of faith, and how your faith has advanced through the trials and tribulations of life.
In the public life of Jesus, Mary makes significant appearances. This is so even at the very beginning, when at the marriage feast of Cana, moved with pity, she brought about by her intercession the beginning of miracles of Jesus the Messiah. In the course of her Son's preaching she received the words whereby in extolling a kingdom beyond the calculations and bonds of flesh and blood, He declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God, as she was faithfully doing. After this manner the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting herself with a maternal heart with His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to His disciple with these words: "Woman, behold thy son".(LG 58)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Year of Faith also coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which was produced with a view to illustrating for all the faithful the power and beauty of the faith.
143 By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God. With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, "the obedience of faith".
This definition of faith shows exactly why Mary is considered to be the “Woman of Faith:” by her assent at the annunciation and faithfulness through all the life, death and resurrection of her son Jesus, she submitted her intellect and will to God.
148 The Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. By faith Mary welcomes the tidings and promise brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that "with God nothing will be impossible" and so giving her assent: "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.” Elizabeth greeted her: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed.
149 Throughout her life and until her last ordeal when Jesus her son died on the Cross, Mary's faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfilment of God's word, and so the Church venerates in Mary the purest realisation of faith.
“Her faith never wavered,” yet for some death and disaster are the causes of a loss of faith. Why did Mary‟s faith remain strong, why has yours?