ISSUES OF FAITH: Have hope in modern times

MANY STUDIES OF late have shown that the “nones,” those with no religious affiliation, have ascended in recent times.

People, mostly the young, are not so much as switching faiths but leaving the faith. There are some obvious culprits here — scandals and hypocrisy in religious institutions, the dark side of social media and just plain lack of leadership on so many fronts.

Each of these present their own problems and solutions, but the clock ticks and the idea that things are going to change any time soon seems remote.

There are signs of hope though, great hope, and as always it begins with a particular individual, Jesus, and individuals — each one of us.

A homily I heard many years ago has stayed with me. It is a simple message, at the same time large and profound. It is this: We cannot hope to effect change around us, be they family and friends, if we don’t effect change in ourselves.

That old saying that when we point our finger at someone, we have four pointing back at ourselves is something our mom or dad or some teacher said to us, and is unfortunately, stubbornly true.

Changing someone close to us is hard, if not impossible. Many marriages fail because husband and wife were sure the opposite was true.

Work on yourself and like a little stone being thrown in a still pond, you will see a ripple and hopefully those are the people you will touch.

Remember, always, that God is the source of all the good in our life and to give thanks and credit where it is due.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the go-to book for what and why the Church teaches, and it begins this way:

“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man.” And it goes on from there, but you get the point. God draws close to man, and do we recognize this?

I was recently on a pilgrimage to a remote part of the world, with about 100 other people, and a man in our group lost his cellphone.

He never found it but in talking to him he had this to say: “I am totally free now. I am a free man.”

Peace came of his initial panic.

Most of us are old enough to remember the era before the all-consuming cellphone. Our hands and eyes are always busy now, and we have lost our ability to suffer silence. God is in the silence.

“I busy not myself with great things, nor with things too sublime for me. Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child” (Psalm 131).

We seek peace and happiness — it’s what we as humans do.

We have turned our clocks back and the holidays approach.

Pray to the God who is so close to you and you will be amazed how still your soul can be.

The God who created you is truly your best friend.

And ponder the crucifix for a moment; really look at Jesus.

When you realize that he allowed himself to be tortured and killed, a most very real and intense pain, all while taking on the entire sin of humanity (ponder that too), who else would you like to ride shotgun with as you move through life? You don’t have to answer. It’s obvious, right?

So when I see vinyl records and Pac-Man and other things of yesteryear making comebacks I don’t really worry about the “nones” and their supposed lack of faith. I pray for them, as we should all do because God has a way of getting our attention, and he will get theirs, in sublime or startling ways.

And yet, the clock still ticks.

We know that Jesus sought after the one lost sheep, the one lost sheep out of 100, because one lost soul means that much to the Kingdom of God.

He gave his life as you know. And called to imitate him, we can do nothing less than allow Christ dominion over us, but the reality is that he can’t do this on his own.

This is where the reality of the opening paragraph comes into play amid the great hope that is Jesus.

There is always a light that shines so brightly in the darkness, and it is never extinguished and never loses its strength. It is the peace in our troubled times and it is our turn now to witness this.

Near the end of the “Two Towers,” the second volume of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Samwise Gamgee says, “The great tales never end, do they, Mr. Frodo?”

“No they never end as tales, but the people in them come, and go as their part’s ended.”

We look to the beauty of the cross; the beauty of the risen Christ, knowing that we are no longer “strangers and sojourners,” but professed children of God.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Mike Acheson is director of religious education at Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim. His email is mikea@olypen.com.

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