Homily for September 9, Friday of the XXIII week in Ordinary Time, year I
The other day, I stopped in to the North Shore Mall for the first time. I went specifically to visit the chapel in the mall, but since I was there, I took a walk around to see the stores. Mainly, there are just the typical vendors, but there is one I have never seen before. The idea of the store is that they sell products and services to help people develop and exercise their mental skills. They offer puzzles and memory games and things like that, as well as “one-on-one brain coaching”. I didn’t buy anything, but the store’s general concept is a good idea. If we want to keep our minds in good shape, we have to use them, by learning new things and putting them into practice. There’s no way to guarantee long-term mental clarity and agility, but if a little extra mental work now can help us keep a sharp mind later in life, it’s a worthwhile investment.
Something similar can be said of our faith. We need to be open to learning new things and recognizing our own failings in living what we believe, in order for our faith to grow, mature, and stay fresh. Saul thought he knew everything when he was still a Jewish Pharisee, while he was really still an “arrogant man” and a “blasphemer” because he opposed Christianity. God had to knock Saul off his horse and blind him before he would open his eyes to his own mistakes, learn the truth about Christ, and become the great apostle, St. Paul.
Even as Christians, who are already “converted”, we need to be humble and keep on learning. Although the principles of our faith are simple, our lives are not so simple. Applying the faith to the situations we face each day can be a challenge. Even with the best intentions, we can make mistakes and go off the right path. If we are not well informed about what the Church teaches and why, we run the risk of being blind guides who fall into pitfalls and lead others to fall in with them.
However, keeping up to date on how to live the faith in today’s world is easier now than ever. We can get free resources on the internet, like the Pope’s weekly catechesis and official documents from the Vatican and the bishops, as well as Catholic news and essays from other on-line sources. It’s also easy to order good Catholic books on-line, if you can’t find them at your local religious book store nearby.
Ongoing formation in our faith takes time out of our already busy schedules, and it requires the humility to recognize that we don’t know it all yet. However, it’s worth the effort. Our spiritual well-being is the most important long-term investment we can ever make. A clear mind has little value without a healthy soul. Just a few minutes of spiritual or faith-oriented instructional reading each day can give us that spiritual edge we need to grow in our faith and our love for God.