Put Out into the Deep

Set Apart by Our Faith

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into His Church. So writes Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, announcing the Year of Faith, which will open on the 11th of October.

An open door is an invitation that demands a response from you and me. We can choose to enter, or stay in the place we find ourselves and may be very comfortable, or choose to pass through another door. Sometimes our faith challenges even our deeply held political beliefs. The Universal Call to Holiness that we all share imposes upon us to recognize that we are called to be set apart even in the exercise of our political responsibilities.

My suspicion is many of us desire to walk through the door of faith but are afraid. Some may fear the changes that might be required in their lives, other are terrified by the prospect of not being in “control” of one’s own destiny. This was precisely the choice the Apostles confronted; their lives and our world were forever changed.

Were the Apostles reckless? To the unbeliever, they were foolish and delusional. As for the believer, we view them as courageous. But the Apostles knew Christ, and He spoke to their hearts. On one hand, what Jesus was calling them to seemed impossible and difficult. The only reason they would say “yes” is that they knew Christ; they heard Him open the Scriptures and saw with their own eyes the marvels He worked.

How is it that you and I come to know Christ? We know Him by our study of the Scriptures. We read and spend time thinking about His life and what He said to the Apostles. The Apostles in the Epistles begin to explain to the early Christian community the implications of faith in their lives.

Through Sacred Tradition and the Magesterium of the Church, we continue to learn what is demanded of us today. We believe this because we trust in the words of Christ to the Apostles, that He was sending the Spirit to us. He sends the Spirit to us as individuals and also to the Church.

Implications of Faith

Over the centuries, the Church struggled to understand the implications of our faith in Christ; in the Apostolic Age, the Church contemplated if it was necessary to follow the Mosaic law in order to be a Christian. In the fourth century, the Church struggled with the humanity and divinity of Christ. In the fifth century, the Council of Ephesus examined the role of Mary.

As we enter into this Year of Faith, we mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. At the heart of the matter is the Universal Call to Holiness. Many think that only priests and nuns are called to be holy. Yet, the Council and the Catechism help us to see more clearly that it is by virtue of our baptism that we are all set apart and consecrated.

Is your life and mine distinguishable from that of unbelievers? Are we set apart? The Holy Father, writing in Porta Fidei, reminds us, “The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: By their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.”

In the modern world, a certain compartmentalizing of our faith has taken place. Nowhere is this more evident than in our interactions in the public square. My suspicion is that this has occurred because of the systematic and coordinated effort to silence the voice of the Church, as well as a pervasive ignorance of the foundational documents of our nation and the historic relationship between Church and State. That question, however, is best left for others more qualified to discuss.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council write, “Moreover, let the laity also by their combined efforts remedy the customs and conditions of the world, if they are an inducement to sin, so that they all may be conformed to the norms of justice and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hinder it. By so doing, they will imbue culture and human activity with genuine moral values; they will better prepare the field of the world for the seed of the Word of God; and at the same time, they will open wider the doors of the Church by which the message of peace may enter the world.” (Lumen Gentium 36)

As we put out into the deep in this Year of Faith, let us always be conscious of the universal call to holiness and recognize that one way we are called to be set apart is in the exercise of our political responsibilities.

The Church is obligated to teach every generation what the faith means for them. Pray with me that in the Year of Faith that the members of our diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens will translate their faith into political action.