Articles : Letter To You On The Occasion Of The Closing Of The Year Of Faith

Posted on: 2014-01-12
Source: Rev. Fr. Peter Akinola

Tick, tick, says the clock
Tick, tick.
What you have to do, do quick!
And so it comes to a close, the much publicized, and much celebrated Year of Faith. Nevertheless, the close is not the end, just as finishing does not necessarily implying ending. Every year, every month, everyday and in fact every hour, minute and second is lived in faith, and so, the closure of this specially set apart Year of Faith is meant to be a springboard to a life of faith that is alive and active.
Did I just use the word 'springboard?' Yes, exactly that, and that is what it is. A springboard is a flexible board, projecting over water, from which divers leap or spring; it is an impetus or condition for commencing. But have you noticed before that a spring board does not launch one into the air or water, as the case may be all by itself? The initial effort is always from the acting agent, with the springboard acting as a catalyst for a better launch.
That exactly is what the Year of Faith aimed at accomplishing and this my 'from-the-heart' letter to you is underlined with an intention to take a retrospect and consider together what we have done, where we are and where we are heading towards. It is a case of a thesis that attracts an antithesis, thereby leading to a synthesis, which in turn becomes a new thesis attracting another antithesis.... Is this a mere cycle that leads to no destination but where we started from? Is it a repeat of the Tale of Sisyphus that eventually leads to pessimism and nihilism? No! It is a cyclic move that has a linear orientation. Our movement is towards an end, that is achieved in our beatific union with God, and even when the situation seems repeating, it never is the same.
Year of Faith; What it Meant To Achieve?
In the world of business, stock-taking comes only after sales, which of its own does not come unless there exists a pre-sale intention on which the stock-taking is based. So, let's begin from the pre Year of faith intention.
Faith is always both a communal and personal reality! Thus, the communal faith without a personal absorption is a deception and vice versa. As such, in considering the purpose of the Year of Faith declaration, we need to look at it from these two perspectives; what did the community of God's people, that is, the Church intend, and very closely linked to this is 'what did I intend as a person to achieve', at the beginning of the Year?
From the perspective of the Church, the solution can be gotten in the second article of the motu proprio at the commencement of the Year, when Pope Emeritus writes "... I have spoken on the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ." From this, we can situate two purposes for which the Year was declared by the Pope Emeritus, that is, to rediscover the journey of faith, and to shed clearer light on the hope we have in Christ (cf 1 Pet.3:15). The first and foremost reason is for ME and YOU to deepen our faith, to move on from mere conventional practices to conviction, while the second is an invitation to spread the News. It is a case of nemo dat quod non habet!
Now, for your own intention or purpose, I cannot really tell, but I know you know what it was; most probably, it would have been in line with the purpose of the community of faith. The question that thus arises is; How far have you gone?
Many Activities: Convention or Conviction?
This last 13 months, I am almost certain that you also, like every other Catholic worth the name have taken some particular steps, again, be it on individual level or in line with your faith community, the parish, diocese or even at the level of the Universal Church. I congratulate you on this, and I request that you make a list of those things that you did in two groups based on whether they are strictly personal or communal. Having done this, I invite you to consider the depth of your action following the two key words above, convention or conviction.
What is a convention?
Convention is lexically defined as 'a rule, method or practice established by usage; custom.' It is a common occurrence for us to hear of 'that's how we use to do it', 'we've been asked to do it like that' etc. This is what convention is about, the word is from a Latin word conventiō which means an assembling or agreeing. In itself, convention is not a problem, but only becomes one when it is devoid of conviction.
How many times do we respond to inquiries of faith with the response of 'that is how we do it?' Did Jesus Himself not move from the question of 'who do people say the Son of Man is?' to 'and you, who do you say I am? The undisputed purpose of the just concluded Year of Faith is conviction of the faith we profess, celebrate and prayed, manifested in the way we live our lives.
Whereas convention is more of mere assembling, conviction on the other hand is a firm and undoubting belief, many a time it is based on a clear illumination. Thus, the question you and I should be asking ourselves now is; on what level is my faith now; conventional or convincing level? Are we able to say like the Samaritans who having met with Jesus told the Samaritan woman who introduced Jesus to them that "now, we believe, not merely on evidence of your word, but because we ourselves have heard Him with our ears" (cf. Jn 4:1ff).
The World is Our Field.
Wait a minute dear friend! Of what use is that your faith when it is closed within itself? What benefit have you when your faith cannot be shared with others, for its multiplication is based above all on the way you live your life? Does the scriptures not say "let your good works shine before others, so that seeing it, they may give glory to your Father in heaven" (cf. Matt 5:16). The joy of the Christian faith is made manifest in its sharing!
As soon as the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived of the Holy Spirit, she went in haste to make Jesus known to her cousin Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39); Andrew wasted no time in making Jesus known to Peter, his brother and in the same vein, Phillip could not keep the faith to himself alone but went out in search of Nathanael, with whom he shared the faith (cf. Jn 1:35-45). Little wonder then that Mother Theresa of Calcutta defines evangelization as having Christ and making Him known to others. Here lies the purpose of the Year of Faith, can you lay claim to this?
To what extent is the message to be spread? The world is the field! This is what Jesus himself said after having told the parable of the wheat and thorns (cf. Matt 13:38) and this is where we are called to spread the word. Nevertheless, this world has its proper beginnings in our immediate environment (cf. Acts 1:8ff), and as such we cannot overlook this reality. Now, are you ready for the spread of the faith? This exactly is the point of stock taking earlier talked about. We must now go out of our shells and ingest the world with the Good News of our faith.
Profess, celebrate and live your faith with full and indubitable conviction. Make your faith your life, and your life, your faith. Be determined not to be blown aside by the wind of incredulity blowing the four corners of the earth. Be a light in the darkness of the world, for as long as you are a light, you will surely draw souls unto Christ. Be a salt to add taste to the sour world of today; remove from it every form of corruption that may come your way!
Rather than ending, the Year of Faith is launching us out! Let's go there!! Let's go a fishing, for we have been called to be Fishers of Men! For God and For Youth... Through Christ.