BE READY TO GIVE AN EXPLANATION
First Saint Peter 3:15
Brothers and Sisters,
When I was in high school, I had a classmate who would continually challenge me on the Catholic Faith. He would question why did the Church do this, or how could the Church believe that, and so on. Sometimes I had an answer, oftentimes I did not. He called himself a free-range Christian – suggesting that he is simply a Christian without any church building or protestant denomination in-which he belonged.
When I didn’t know what to say or how to respond, I felt like I let down the Church – and my classmate certainly thought that he definitively won the argument. Even though I was embarrassed that I couldn’t fully or adequately explain the Church teaching or liturgical practice, I knew that I should know. “I go to Mass, I’m a good Catholic,” I thought, “why don’t I know how to respond and explain the Catholic positions?”
I am proud to say that I was brave enough to speak to my parish priest about this and ask what I was missing. I first asked about the questions my classmate gave me and my priest gave me excellent answers. Eventually, though, I asked why I didn’t know the answers myself, how was it that I was unable to explain the Catholic positions on much of anything even though my parents brought me to Mass every weekend and holy day.
I still recall his response: Jeremy, he said, I’m sure that you have to finish your homework outside of class, I’m sure that you need to study for your exams at school, I’m confident that you need to practice for band and sports . . . why do you think the faith should be any different, how could you ‘just know’ everything about the faith without doing your homework and studying for the test and practicing doing it right and well?
Of course that’s a paraphrase, I cannot guarantee that it is precisely what Father told me, but I am confident it is nearly exactly what he said – and he is right! How could I explain any scholastic subject without doing my homework and studying the material? How could I hope to be successful at music or sports without practice and forcing myself to improve?
It is all-too-often that people – myself included – expect the Holy Faith to come naturally, that I should just know what to say or even that we must know because we’ve been Catholic for some great number of years. So, let’s change everything about assuming we know the Faith. Let’s see about how we can increase (or begin, perhaps) praying everyday. Maybe we can start with a very simple commitment to praying at our bedside each morning and evening, praying in the car, and – if we are brave enough – together with friends.
God be near,