June 7, 2012
Last week, I was at St. Louis Bertrand Church speaking to a gathering of parents who came together to assist each other with the task of home-schooling their children. They asked me to speak about the Year of Faith, which is to begin this October.
I chose to relate the Year of Faith to the theme of the Sunday we just celebrated — Trinity Sunday. Trinity Sunday celebrates the mystery of the nature of God himself and the wondrous act of his overflowing.
Each time I make the sign of the cross, I am reminded of the great mystery of our faith — God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the seminary, I was taught that the nature of our Triune (three in one) God is love.
Traditional Catholic theology employs the Latin expression ad intra (toward the inner) to point to the innermost life of the Blessed Trinity. The relation of one Person to the Other is pure love. The movement ad extra (toward the outside) describes the mission of God the Son and of God the Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son and the Spirit on a mission beyond the inner life of the Trinity, into the world. This is the great love of God, which has overflowed.
The remarkable reality of the love of God overflowed is the history of salvation: the narrative of God’s love and our response. The first outpouring of love is what we call creation, and the Book of Genesis relates this outpouring of God’s spirit bringing forth the wonders of creation. The entire universe is sustained by the mysterious love of God.
A second outpouring, God’s response to our sinful state, came in the person of the only begotten son, Jesus Christ. Next week we will celebrate that gift of his self-sacrificing love on Corpus Christi Sunday — the Body of Christ — through the Holy Eucharist. And two weeks ago, Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus himself.
The Year of Faith is about God’s outpouring love and our grace-filled response. This observance will not manifest itself as a program, but as an invitation to embrace the nature of God into our lives and our community.
In the document Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict introduces the Year of Faith through a simple but powerful verse from Acts 14:27 that speaks of the door of faith and how St. Paul and St. Barnabas were in “ … awe how God has opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”
In Porta Fidei, our Holy Father leads us in the same two-fold movement — ad intra and ad extra. As we move inward, our call is to re-discover the journey of faith. Pope Benedict speaks of this as moving out of the desert and into friendship with Son of God, the inner life of God indwelling. Then, the Pope calls us to more, stating that we “ … cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden.” God’s love in our hearts overflows.
Our Catholic faith always calls us to this great synergy of inner conversion and outer witness. One does not happen for long without the other. True inner conversion overflows. We cannot help but tell others of what we have seen and heard. St. Mary Magdalene and those who experienced the joy of the empty tomb after Christ’s Resurrection were compelled to share this good news, and we are in a fine tradition when we share our faith.
The opposite, however, is also true. A faith that is not nourished from within will not long show the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
I heard this need recently described vividly by Bishop George Thomas of Helena when he said that there is no more room for “camouflage Catholics.” If we have faith in our hearts, it will overflow into our daily lives. This is what the Year of Faith is about.
This is not the first Year of Faith. In 1967, after the end of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI announced a Year of Faith dedicated to the martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul. Since it is believed that their deaths occurred in 68 AD, this year of faith commemorated the 19th centenary of their passing. Martyrdom comes from the Greek word meaning to witness. Thus, this year of faith also celebrated this twofold theme of inner renewal that witnesses boldly to the faith.
I have heard it put another way: we are always disciples who follow and apostles who proclaim. We never cease to be either. I just finished a wonderful week with the priests of our Archdiocese at the annual assembly, and soon I will be with brother bishops in Atlanta. These times together, like parish gatherings in which you might take part, are filled with business and activities. Beneath the surface, these gatherings are about the love of God outpoured as we take time to receive this gift and nurture God’s presence so it can overflow.