I have began my "new years" in January with a retreat with my friends since 2010. For three years, we gathered with my spiritual director for about 24 hours and prayed, laughed, and listened to God together.
But my friends are still amazing and I am blessed to have a spiritual director who steers me in the right direction regardless. I do hope to go on a retreat - even if for a day- sometime soon. But in the midst of studying for my comps, I'm not sure when that will be.
I met with my spiritual director recently, though, because I do like to have a fresh look and start for the new year. The Year of Faith really does kind of give us a theme or a lens to look at this year with already, however.
I bloggged about how to begin the year of faith, I read the document- Porta Fidei- and shared it with my students. Then, over Christmas, I followed one of the Holy Father's suggestions and made a "pilgrimage" to the place of my Baptism.
I am very task oriented. I can really get caught up in checking things off a checklist. Faith, though, is meant to be lived. And so my spiritual director has given me the challenge now, not to look so much at the practice of faith, but the virtue of faith in my life.
In an USCCB's (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) document for adult faith formation, there is an article called "Living Faith" that I use with my students. In it, the bishops say that faith is "both a gift of God and an authentically human response." I share this with my students because I think sometimes we believe that some people have faith and some just don't. And thems is the breaks.
The truth is, we all receive the virtues at baptism. Faith is the first of the theological virtues.
I have taken the gift of faith and my baptism for granted at times in my life because the virtue of faith does seem to come somewhat more easily for me. But I believe that is because of my response to faith. God has given me a great faith, but I have allowed it to be a great part of my life (for better or for worse :).
Hebrews 11:1 says that "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." One of the first places we find the virtue of faith in Scripture is in Genesis with Abraham. Genesis 15: 6:
"Abram put his faith in the Lord, who attributed it to him as an act of righteousness." This verse is written after God tells Abraham that he will have descendants, of his barren wife Sarai, and Abraham eventually chooses to believe. Abraham is a great model of the virtue of faith because God really challenges Abraham and time and again, Abraham continues to choose to place his trust in God.
As I prepare for my comps, I have to go through a reading list with 45 books that I just have to be "familiar" with. The Catechism happens to be one of them. I mean, I'm "familiar" with the Catechism....but I'm not sure what exactly I will need to know from it....it's kind of a LARGE BOOK.
Anyways, as I research and study for my exams, I multi-task by also finding this gem which I think will aid me as I meditate on the virtue of faith (again, pertaining to our guy Abraham):
Part 1, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 1, Paragraphs 144-146 (Man, I hope I don't have to get that specific when taking my exam!):
"I. The Obedience of Faith
144 To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to "hear or listen to") in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself. Abraham is the model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture. the Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment.
145 The Letter to the Hebrews, in its great eulogy of the faith of Israel's ancestors, lays special emphasis on Abraham's faith: "By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go."4 By faith, he lived as a stranger and pilgrim in the promised land.5 By faith, Sarah was given to conceive the son of the promise. and by faith Abraham offered his only son in sacrifice.6
146 Abraham thus fulfils the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen":7 "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."8 Because he was "strong in his faith", Abraham became the "father of all who believe"
The Catechism, too, then shows Abraham as the father and model of our faith. He chose to "freely submit" to the "word he had heard." And this is the example set for us to do in our own lives as well.
Faith is a gift that we receive by our Baptism, but as the bishops document says, it is also is a response. I'm going to be taking some time this year to reflect on the response(s) to faith in my life. I think we can all start with our Baptisms. Today, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, ends the Christmas season, but Baptism begins our journey in the Christian Faith. Many of us don't remember our baptisms since we are infants, but Baptism is a great gift that the Lord gives us, whether we (or even our parents) chose it authentically or not.
I share this with all of you to perhaps give you something to reflect on in this new year and Year of Faith, too. I'm going to be praying with Scripture verses that discuss faith as well. Here are some to get us started if you'd like to join me!
Matthew 16: 8- "oh you of little faith"
Matthew 17: 14- 20: "because of your little faith"- the apostles are trying to cast out a demon like Jesus
Mark 2: 6- healing of the paralytic
Mark 5: 21-34- faith of the woman with the hemorrhage
Luke 7: 9- faith of the centurion
Luke 8: 25- calming of the storm
John 14: 1- Last Supper Discourse
And that's just a start from the Gospels! Also see the book of James chapter 2 (faith and works) 1 and 2nd Timothy, and 1 Peter for how the apostles and early Church grapple with the gift of Faith.
Happy New Year!