Springtime the right time for faith renewal

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September and the new season of spring are often seen as a time for spring-cleaning. Many of us engage in a flurry of activity and go about cleaning up and renewing our homes to shape them up and ensure that everything is in good condition.

Is this also the time to take an honest look at where we are right now in our faith journey?  Do we trust God?  Are we living our faith or only paying it lip service? Do we reflect on the commandments as our framework for living our faith? Let us use this season as a time of purification and renewal of our commitment to God.

Faith is not just belief, an intellectual agreement that Jesus exists. Rather, from that belief in Christ we need to come to know the person of Jesus in relationship, as someone alive and real to us.  The first step, as we all know, lies in our prayer lives where we spend time with Jesus.  

In that relationship, following God’s law is not about forcing ourselves to do things we do not like, but it is something that willingly flows from who we are and who we love.  In any friendship or relationship, we enjoy someone’s company and follow the person willingly, out of love, respect and admiration; not because of the threat of punishment.

At times, deep down inside, we may feel that we have to face the world alone, and that leads us to feel that we need to hold on so hard to the wealth or the little that we have; because we fear we will not have enough in the future.

It is only in a relationship that we can speak of trust, because we trust a person, not an abstract idea. We trust that Christ will accompany us and provide for us, so we have no fear of sharing the gifts and the abundance we have.

Yet this process of building our faith in Christ takes time.  For most of us, our trust in God grows little by little. Often we need to start by trusting God in the little things and ,through the experience of seeing God provide in these instances, are we then able to trust in bigger things and to hold on to Christ when the storms and challenges come.

Faith, therefore, is not about being chained to religious observances to earn our merit points to enter heaven.  Faith frees us to transcend our human weaknesses and fears to become fully human in our capacity to love, even to making sacrifices for others, even to the cross.

As Pope Francis says, commandments are not restrictions on our freedoms but indicators of our freedom. Understanding the true purpose of the commandments helps us to see how much we need God’s mercy.
And so, as we approach the year of Mercy, it is good to reflect on the fact that the commandments of God are given to us precisely as a mercy. They are not rules imposed from the outside that above all else have to be obeyed. They are given to help us to live the pathway of our true dignity and highest calling.

God’s mercy is misunderstood if it is taken as something which enables us to overlook those commandments. Rather it is the eternal restlessness of God’s love calling us again and again to raise our eyes beyond the horizons we have set for ourselves, the limits of what we believe we can manage, the limits of what we think can reasonably be asked of us and to reach out again for the fullness of his love, opening our hearts again to its light and joy.

Let us be conscious of Christ present in those around us in our homes and workplaces, and pray for the grace to grow in love for them; a love which shows in our actions and daily lives.

God’s mercy enables us to start out again. Let us pray this spring, for the grace to set aside time to pray and nurture our relationship with Jesus, and to renew and increase our faith.

- Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, October, 2015