A recent article in The New Yorker entitled “The Crisis Manager” and written by Gay Talese, profiles Joe Girardi, manager of the Yankees. As you may know, the Yankees recently ended the regular season in first place in the American League East and are currently in the race for the post-season run against the Baltimore Orioles in the Division Series. One interesting fact brought out in this article, however, is, “Although Girardi was brought up Catholic, he told me, ‘The Catholic church, it seemed to me, growing up, was a lot of rules. You sit, you stand, you kneel; you sit, you stand, you kneel.’ He said ‘Kim (his wife – Kim Innocenzi Girardi) introduced me to Jesus.’ He once described the moment to a reporter; ‘We were sitting in the basement of the Phi Delta sorority house. Kim explained salvation to me, and I silently prayed to receive Jesus as my Savior.'”
And so we find that in our world today people want to see Jesus, they want salvation. But where can they find Jesus? In the Gospel of John we hear that the Greeks, who came to worship in Jerusalem, went to Philip the Apostle and said, “We want to see Jesus.” This is being asked today, perhaps not directly but certainly indirectly. People want salvation. They want to be saved from the evil that they perceive in the world. But from where will this salvation come? Why is it so difficult for people to find Jesus in our Catholic Church?
Yes, it is true that the Catholic Church has many rules. Not just the rules of sitting and standing and kneeling, but rather rules about moral behavior which seems to have turned many away from the practice of the faith today; abortion, divorce, same-sex marriage, homosexual relationships. There are many so-called rules that are part of our life of faith. They are not human rules. Rather, they are ways of living that are derived from Scripture and Tradition that have come through human reasoning and the Magisterium of the Church. People come to faith through other people, just as Joe Girardi came to faith in Jesus through his then fiancee, Kim. But why is it that we are not good transmitters of the faith? Could it be that perhaps we are not willing, unable or embarrassed to make the introduction to Jesus?
The Year of Faith gives us the opportunity to show our faith in Jesus to others, while at the same time we review our own faith. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, The Door of Faith, which introduced this Year of Faith, reminds us, “We must not forget that in our cultural context, very many people, while not claiming to have the gift of faith, are nevertheless sincerely searching for the ultimate meaning and definitive truth of their lives and of the world. This search is an authentic “preamble” to the faith, because it guides people onto the path that leads to the mystery of God. Human reason, in fact, bears within itself a demand for “what is perennially valid and lasting.”
Pope Benedict goes on to say, “Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, normally accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swaths of society because of the profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.” (par. 2)
But what is it that makes us hesitate to share the mystery of God and our faith in Jesus Christ? Romano Guardini, a great theologian of the last century, in one of his homilies entitled, “Jesus and Faith,” gives some direction in this regard when he says, “Two veils keep us from seeing the living truth of Jesus. One veil is our ignorance.” Guardini describes this by our inability or unwillingness to learn more about Jesus through study and prayer. The other veil “is that we think we know, but in truth we are just accustomed to hearing the same words, episodes, statements over and over again. And this habit excludes any possibility of a fresh impression, beclouds the vision even more thoroughly than knowing nothing.”
Are we ignorant? Or, do we think we know too much? We have a choice during this Year of Faith to learn more about Jesus, to re-affirm our faith and then have the opportunity to share it with others because of the Year of Faith. It starts today with the beginning of Synod on the New Evangelization, and it is about the sharing of faith.
As I mentioned in my homily at the Chrism Mass this past April, we have certain challenges in our own Diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens, challenges which are unique to us and which we hope to address during this Year of Faith. First, we have newcomers from all over the world in our diocese in tremendous numbers. For instance, the Chinese-born population here in Brooklyn and Queens is close to 400,000 people. There are also newcomers from all over the United States, young people who come to live in our Diocese and work in Manhattan. They sleep here in Brooklyn and Queens, but their lives are oriented to their work place and places of entertainment in Manhattan, although we see these young people now congregating more in our own neighborhoods. There are also great numbers of those who are fallen-away and are not practicing their faith. As we look at our own Diocese, we number the Catholics at over 1,600,000. Yet, on any one Sunday, only 250,000 people attend the Eucharist. We are missing many people. What is it that they want to hear? Who is it that they want to meet? Certainly, it is Jesus, Himself. The object and the subject of the Year of Faith is Jesus, Himself. It is He in whom we believe, not a set of principles, not a set of rules, but rather we believe in the Risen Lord who Himself was a believer in God the Father, and who has given us the opportunity to believe as He did.
What must we do to show our faith to others? One of the great suggestions of Pope Benedict XVI is this, “The Year of Faith will also be a good opportunity to intensify the witness of charity. As Saint Paul reminds us: ‘So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13)
Hopefully, as we reach out to the newcomers and the other residents of our diocese, our witness of charity will make a difference. I propose that in our parishes and in the agencies of our Catholic Charities here in Brooklyn and Queens that we find new volunteers, people who are willing to give time, talent and treasure to assist others. This in itself will attract others to our faith because our believe will be made concrete and will be a witness to others.
The Year of Faith demands, however, personal conversion. Pope Benedict XVI, in Porta Fidei says, “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.” The witness clearly is one of conversion and change. We must, with renewed conviction and with the confidence of hope, ask the Lord for that gift that we might change our lives, so that we may become witnesses to the faith.
As we begin this Year of Faith, we ask the Lord, and the giver of life, the Holy Spirit, to inspire our faith, review out faith, and, most of all, give us the courage to share the gift of faith with others.