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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Journey of Faith and Wisdom

About a year ago I came across a flyer from a campus ministry program at another university (I don’t recall what school it was). It began with a statement that read, “You came to an institution of higher learning to grow intellectually. Why are you ok with an eighth grade knowledge of your faith?” The statement addresses an important aspect of your college experience. Here you will be challenged in many ways. You will learn more things about life, the world and new approaches to thinking. You will learn to think critically. It can be an exciting time, but at the same time a frightening time as you begin to “reassess” what you have always held to be true. Sadly, for some reason many people do not apply the same effort and critical thinking to faith. When this occurs we can come up with such erroneous ideas as “science as disproven religion”, “religion is silly, archaic, controlling, out of touch, etc…” or “human reason will provide you with all you need to know”. A recent survey of millennials (those between the ages of 17 and 30) and religion show that most millennials find Christians to be hypocritical, judgmental and antigay (Ironically, 76% feel Christianity has good values, and 63% feel Christianity “shows love for other people”). (A Generation in Transition: Religion, Values and Politics among College Age Millennials. Public Research Institute, 2012. P. 31) certainly, we can find examples of Christians and others not living as the Gospel has called us to and with the internet, their numbers may seem to be much larger than they are. The tragedy is when in our “enlightened” state, we turn from faith. When this happens, we assume what the Church teaches without actually knowing what the teaching is. When we apply our intellectual approach to our assumptions, it is no wonder that we reach a conclusion about Christianity that is different than what Christianity is actually about. This is tragic because the intellect has told us since the ancient Greeks that the human person is a unity of body, mind and spirit. Our drive as human beings is to feed our desire for joy, love and fulfillment. This occurs when we take time to learn more about ourselves, our gifts and talents, who we are and what our purpose for being here is. This includes study of such things as philosophy, science and religion, taking time for beauty and goodness and time for spiritual nourishment and growth. If you remove religion from the mix, you enter the journey incomplete. You may experience moments of spiritual awakening (after all, truth, goodness and beauty have their source in God), but these will still be incomplete over time. We owe it to ourselves, to others and to God to include faith in our development as healthy human beings. An important foundation for understanding Catholic theology (after the Scriptures) is philosophy, the”love of wisdom”. In the Old Testament, Solomon is praised not for seeking power or wealth, but for seeking an “understanding heart”. (1Kings 3:9) Wisdom fuels us in our journey for completeness. Justice, peace and happiness are only possible when we understand who we are and live accordingly. This does not mean that growing in faith is a walk in the park. We will struggle at times to understand God and His teaching. This journey is at times challenging and time consuming, as is any type of meaningful growth we experience (Exhibit A: the teenage years!). Faith and religion do not take away the problems and stresses you will face in life, but it will provide you with the stability to persevere through those trials, a perseverance that leads to something better. Growing in faith, like growing in knowledge in science, philosophy, etc., involves asking questions, sometimes tough questions. But in order for us to grow, it also involves listening for the answer and engaging in discussion about that answer. It involves being open to the possibility that I may be wrong. It involves the realization that I am not alone in this life long process. The family of faith, the Church is there to support me, to help me in my journey of understanding, at times to challenge me and at all times to love me and keep me connected to God’s love.

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