What Attracted You to the Faith?

2 March 2011. Wednesday of the 8th Week in Ordinary Time
Sirach 36: 1-17; Psalm 79; Mark 10: 32-45

What attracted you to the faith? Yes, I know, I was like you: I was baptized when I was an infant. But there was a point in our lives when, we had to own the faith. We were initially ‘seduced’ into it by some things which we think was important.

Believe it or not, I was attracted to the Jesuits because of food and music. Shocked? Yes, no matter how shallow, that was the truth. I didn’t know about the Jesuits until high school because I was raised in a Franciscan parish; educated by the Benedictines in grade school and then the Dominicans in high school. What began as a prospect of fun and adventure in a city two hours away from home, ended with me following God’s call.

It first began with the meals the Jesuits offered during the Vocation seminar in Naga. I loved the food! And then, the event ended with a mass. In the liturgy, I discovered the songs I loved to play at our parish were composed by Jesuits. St. Augustine said that God’s grace builds on one’s nature. St. Ignatius said that God begins from where we are. What these great figures of spirituality said were true to me.

Good thing, I was not alone. Some were attracted to the Church because of the promise of healing. Some were attracted by power and fame. Some were attracted by the opportunity of being known in the community. Business-owners in Quiapo, Philippines, clamored to have the image of the Black Nazarene turn to their stores during the January procession for a year of luck. In addition, I knew of some choir members who first began their service because their crush was there. Never mind. Never undermine the power of God.

The apostles, James and John, for all their leadership in the growth of the Christian faith, fell into something like that. After Jesus explanation and description of His impending suffering and death, James and John totally missed what Jesus was saying. They wanted Jesus to grant them a place in His glory. (In another Gospel, it was their mother who requested this.) They do not know what they were asking.

To some extent today, we are like James and John. We do not know what we are asking. We do somehow miss the objective of our faith. To be like Jesus means to carry our cross and follow Him. To be a Christian means to serve the whole of humanity. Discipleship is following the way of the cross of Jesus in faith, through the service to all. To suffer is a large part of the mission; but it doesn’t deny we do experience deeper happiness in the very struggle within it.

From experience, the cross purifies whatever impure or trivial motivations we have. There are those who easily bail out of the Church when they begin to experience pain within it. There are those who have experienced rejection, scandal, discouragement, disillusionment, or disappointments in the leadership of those in the Church.

But there are those who stayed. After missing the point, they learn, eventually, to get the point. James and John promised Jesus that they are willing to drink from the cup. And they have. Despite the stupidity of some of our leaders, many of us have bravely and courageously stayed and struggled within the Church.

Gone are the days when we thought that being a Catholic or a Christian is to be dining with nice friends in a banquet hall filled with good music. We are not anymore in the clouds, expecting everyone to agree or do what we think is the right thing to do. It is sometimes hard to think that there are more people who will not agree with us, including those whom we believe are educated enough to think what is compassionately right.

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