Fortitude and the Faith Journey
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” ~ Psalm 95
In today’s 1st Reading (Jeremiah 7:23-28) our Lord sadly reflects upon the fact that his people have turned their backs on him. “This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God, or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared, the word itself is banished from their speech” laments the Lord, and as these words pour off the page and seep into our consciousness, they allow us to examine our own lives in an effort to ascertain where we stand as it relates to obedience to the word of God.
The faith journey is one in which we find ourselves either moving forward or backwards. There really is no standing still, “breaking even” if you will. You’re either progressing or regressing. Sin and vice take us backwards, virtue and grace nudge us forward, and yesterday’s 1st Reading (Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9) provides us with the scriptural framework for spiritual health and growth, commonly known as the “hear/observe/live” model. First we must hear God’s word. Every day. It is through reading the Bible that we gain the spiritual nourishment to forge ahead on our journey. We then must observe God’s word. Here’s where disciplined obedience comes in. Finally, we must weave the teachings of God into our daily lives, pushing back against the adversity, the peer pressure, and the simple fact that oftentimes you will not be afforded the same love and respect that you give in return.
We’ll need to lean on and emulate the lives of the Saints, we’ll certainly need the Sacraments, Scripture (as discussed) and the gifts of the Holy Spirit among other things.
During this Lenten Season, perhaps we can make it a point to share our faith with a nonbeliever or one of our fallen away friends. It can at times be intimidating and you have to understand going in that many will not listen. But our obligation is to make the invitation, and then let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest. If we don't even make an effort, what does that say about our own dedication as Catholics?
Fulton Sheen told a story of two good friends who were partners together in a law-firm. The first was a Catholic, the second a non-believer. The latter became terminally ill and upon visiting him, the Catholic friend asked, "Don't you want to make your peace with God before you die?" The sick man replied, "All the years we have been friends and colleagues, you've never once spoken with me about religious matters. If your faith has mattered so little to you in your life, of what use can it be to me at my death?"
Make no mistake, others notice how important - or unimportant - our faith is in our lives. So let us close with a prayer to the Holy Spirit for the key gift of fortitude so that we can continue to move forward in our faith journey, bringing others along with us through our faith witness.
“Come, O Blessed Spirit of Fortitude, uphold my soul in time of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage against all the assaults of my enemies, that I may never be overcome and separated from thee, my God and greatest good.” ~ Amen.