Thursday, February 9, 2012

Devotion for today: I do believe, help my unbelief

Our fourth question this week is: How much does religion require of me? How much effort does it take to believe?

Scripture for today: Acts 2:42, 46-47 (The early Christian community)
They remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of the bread. They went as a body to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone.

Christ tells us: John 15:4
“Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.”

Christoph Cardinal Schonborn tells us: Karl Barth (d. 1968) the great twentieth-century Protestant theologian, said in the days of his youth that religion is idolatry. That sounds very radical. What did he mean by that? He meant that when religion is one sphere of life, a hollow, gilded, Sunday sphere wrapped in tinsel, then it becomes idolatry…. One may rightly contrast with that what “believing” means in the Bible. Believing, at its most profound, means total sacrifice. Thomas Aquinas defines religion as… “Dedicating, sacrificing or surrendering oneself completely to God”. Then the question naturally arises, “Can that be done?”…. What does it mean, that religion imposes a total claim on a man, so to speak, and is no longer limited to a little sphere on Sunday? Religion is the fundamental axis on which life turns, the primal link between man and God. And if you understand religion that way, then religion turns out to be something constitutive for man. If I start from the assumption that man has been created by God, then this fundamental relationship with God is, so to speak, the pivotal point in life, the umbilical cord linking us to the origin and goal…. The question is only: is religion something like the basic melody of my life? Is it the existential, the fundamental determination of my life? Is it a kind of horizon within which everything in my life happens, whether consciously or unconsciously? One thing we can certainly say: Religion cannot be just a small sphere to which I give my attention for an hour on Sundays, and, apart from that, I behave as if there were no God (Who Needs God? Barbara Stockl in Conversation with Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, Ignatius Press, 2009).

Prayer: Lord, as daylight fills the sky, fill us with your holy light. May our lives mirror our love for you, whose wisdom has brought us into being and whose care guides us on our way. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God for ever and ever(concluding prayer, Week III, Wednesday Morning Prayer, Liturgy of the Hours).

My thoughts: I think Cardinal Schonborn gives a brilliant explanation for the “role” religion plays in our lives.  He makes it very clear that religion, what I profess to believe, is the basis of my entire life: all my decisions, my actions, my very thoughts come from the core of my being which is what I say I believe. I cannot profess that I believe in God and then proceed to break His commandments. I cannot say that I love God and then turn my back on my neighbor. I cannot say that I am a Catholic and then proceed to choose the parts of the faith that are most convenient for me. Can people say of us, as they did the early Christians, “They praised God and were looked up to by everyone”? Christ tells us that we cannot bear fruit unless we remain in Him. He left us His Church, where we can be nourished and blessed, and remain in Him through the Mass, sacraments and teachings. We must work hard to defend this beautiful religion, and all it stands for, so that no man can cut us off from the vine. Live, breathe and profess your faith proudly. Be the light that guides those around you to the life of Christ.

Our prayer to God: Today is a good time to take inventory on our attitude toward our religion. Is it the axis on which our life revolves? Do we check our actions, morals, and ethics against the code God gave us? Remember, if we don’t stand for something, we stand for nothing. Let us decide today to stand up and be counted as people of God. Amen, alleluia!

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