On the importance of authenticity. If we talk the talk, we must walk the walk. The world is not as small as we may think.
Doubting Thomas, by Caravaggio 1597
Ultimately, each one of us is reponsible for our own faith journey and for our own attentiveness and faithfulness to God, but there is also a collective and communal aspect we must be aware of. Salvation is meant and spoken of by Christ and St. Paul in corporate terms... Of peoples... We are not alone, but of One Body. There are many opportunities in our lives where we can help to awaken, enrich, enliven, unleash and support the faith of others. By the same token, we may also be the instruments that blunt, stifle, or even damage someone else's faith as well.
Our late pastor always used to remind us that the more visible you were with your faith, the more you proclaimed it and wore it on your sleeve, the more important it was to be authentic. He would always caution us about not being the the religious "actor". Such a person can leave utter destruction in his or her wake, even more so than the most ardent atheist.
It's important to realize the damage that pro forma, perfunctory religion can do. Our Protestant brothers and sisters remind us of the necessity of being "Born Again", and it is no less true for us. Being brought up in one particular tradition or another and going through the motions avails us nothing. An affirmative decision and commitment needs to be made at some point. An authentic "Confirmation". Sometimes you need to do it more than once. As Prodigal Sons, God doesn't limit our chances. My faith has always been an essential component of my life, but as is the case with many lives, I know there have been times when I could have been a better witness to my faith than I have been. I have at times been as caught up in worldliness as anyone else.
A couple of short tales about big-hearted young women who were once close friends of mine many years ago... Beautiful souls... That's not to say that we would no longer be on friendly terms, but our contact has largely fallen away. Marriages, families, moving away, busy schedules, you know how all that goes...
One very dear friend, a fabulous singer, left her Armenian Church years ago and is now a fairly well-known Christian Gospel singer/songwriter after a life-transforming experience she writes about a little bit here.
I found out in a telephone conversation the other day that another old friend was running a Christian Coffeehouse - Common Ground. She wrote a little about her life transformation when her coffeehouse came under a bit of criticism on this blog. I wonder if the first friend I mentioned ever sings there...
I am very happy for these friends, and I love the fact that they are in a good place, God Bless them, but in my own selfish way I suppose I feel a bit of sadness, because the faith that is and was so important to me apparently never came across in a positive-enough sense to consciences and hearts that were obviously seeking. Caught up in the ethos of the times and my own agenda, I know I could have been a much better witness than I was. I don't have the conceit or hubris to think that I'm responsible for the conversion of others, God works as He wills, but I can't help taking it as food for thought and reflection either. I know how I was.
I'm also feeling a bit wistful in knowing that certain friendships I had in the past can never be quite the same. I've always had a difficult time staying close friends with Born-Again Christians, because even if the attitude I receive is open and charitable, I am all too familiar with how the Catholic Church and its theology is perceived and regarded in those circles, and that is just too difficult for me. That's a personal issue I need to work on.
In any event, it reminds me to be authentic. If we claim to believe, believe. If we talk the talk, we need to walk the walk. Let the Holy Spirit sanctify.