When I think back over my life, I am thankful for the many gifts the good God sent my way through people who knew and loved Him and who chose to share that knowledge and love with me. There are so many examples from the good Catholic sisters and priests who taught me to my Presbyterian friend, James, who announced that he was going to save me from the “chains of my Catholicism!” He was wrong about the Catholic faith, but there was no doubt concerning his zealous love for the Lord. And his zeal most certainly helped me grow in my Catholic faith.
Of all the people God has placed in my life, most of all I am thankful for my family. My mother, father and sister were those people who first introduced me to the faith—to Jesus Christ and the Church He gave to us. Their love of Jesus Christ and His Sacred Scripture, their devotion to His Blessed Mother and their love and fidelity to His Church were exactly the gifts that the Lord wanted them to pass on to me so that I would come to faith in Him. I am so thankful that my parents valued these gifts so highly that they asked a priest to baptize me as an infant so I would also grow in faith and be reconciled to God from the very beginning of my life.
Most important is the realization that God placed within my very being a desire for Him. Faith is His gift to me.
The catechism teaches us, “…the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God’s initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response” (CCC 2567).
St. John of the Cross taught that if we are thinking about God, we can be sure that is because God thought of us first—that He placed that very thought of Himself within us. And so, I am most thankful to God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God’s call to each of us demands our response.
With these gifts, I began my walk of faith in Christ. I believe that it is important that each of us reflect on how we came to faith, to give thanks to God who has tirelessly blessed each of us with His grace, and to learn from that experience and prayer what He is calling us to do for the remainder of our earthly lives.
The Faith Handed on from Generation to Generation
This past Monday was a great day. I spent a good portion of the day with my wife and grandchildren at our neighborhood swimming pool. And again, on Friday evening, good time spent with family, sharing a meal after my son helped me with extensive yard work. Most Sundays, these young children are at the Mass I serve. It is always a joy to see their smiling faces and hear them call out to me in the narthex after Mass. This Sunday morning, I am reminded that my greatest desire for my grandchildren is for them to grow in faith and love of God… this has led me to look back at how I came to faith.
I think of how my parents handed on the faith to me, how I passed on the faith to my son who with his wife is now handing it on to his children—four generations in my lifetime. I pray that my daughter will continue to grow in her love for God. I think of my wife—my rock, my mother and father, my sister, and all my family and all those who God places in my life. And with those thoughts, I sense a peace in my soul. I am so proud of my two grandsons and granddaughter, and their parents. I am so blessed to have received their marital consent and witnessed their vows for the Church and to have baptized their children. God is indeed good.
“We Owe Each Other a Terrible Loyalty”
But, all of these thoughts have led me to reflect on where I am in my faith. Am I where I should be at this point in my life? And my responsibility to share that faith with others, particularly with my family? How can I become a better Catholic husband, father, grandfather and brother? No matter where we think we are in our relationship with God, we can always do better by His grace, become more comformed to His Will. In this, prayer is crucial.
There is a story in Exodus about the power of prayer and intercession. Amalek has come to wage war against the Israelites. Moses sends Joshua and his men to engage Amalek in battle. Moses, stands on a mountain with his arms raised to God and as long as his arms are raised, the battle goes well. But Moses grows tired and his arms begin to lower—the tide of the battle begins to turn. But Aaron and Hur help Moses by lifting his arms and the battle again turns in favor of Joshua who is ultimately victorious. There is so much here, but let’s look at just a few points:
- Joshua’s faith in God is evident in his obedience to Moses, God’s great prophet.
- Moses assists Joshua through his prayer; prayer that is so intense and prolonged that Moses grows tired.
- Others (Aaron and Hur) support Moses and Joshua by joining Moses in prayer through lifting his arms high.
I can look back over my life and see those occasions when I grew weary in prayer. Maybe I thought that God was not listening; maybe my faith was simply too weak. Honestly, there were times when I just gave up on God. I now see that it was not that I expected too much from God, rather, I demanded too little of myself. I am thankful to God that He sent others to aid me with their prayers; and by their example and through them came His grace that has always prompted me to seek what is holy and good even while falling into what is not.
G. K. Chesterton wrote, “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”
We are not alone. We depend on God and we depend on those He has sent to us. Let us not forget that He sends us to others as well.
Into the deep…
Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.
Click below to follow Deacon Mike on Twitter: