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Religion: Making choices in faith

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POSTED March 28, 2014 11:07 p.m.

Religion resides at the heart of every human person. It might be described as a way of healing — or at least dealing with — what we call Original Sin: that black hole in the core of the human race since the Fall.

We humans know that we exist. We are self-conscious of ourselves as having being and as being self-determinant (Descartes’ Cogito ergo sum). 

Yet at the same time we struggle with our inherent finiteness, our trouble-some mortality, the imposing limits on all that we have and can become. 

The Creation Stories of Genesis 1 & 2 describe this as a three-part drama, beginning with the infusion by God of earthly elements (clay, that is) with the “breath” of life. Given intelligence and freedom, the first humans choose the wrong path. Hoping to become more like God, they fall from grace and thus pass on to all their descendants the curse of separation. 

The rest of the story is called the History of Salvation. It consists in the efforts of the Creator to bring his children home and the perilous journey of a forever distracted, insecure, and unreliable human race back to God.

For Christians, Jesus comes from the very Heart of God to offer the path to Heaven through his Blood. He is our Way, our Truth and our Life, so that even beginning the pilgrimage of faith means, in some sense, already to be in Christ, and therefore to be in a state of peace and reconciliation.

But this means making choices. We cannot follow every path; we can’t reach our destination by subscribing to every spirituality being promoted.

I spent ten years — from age 15 to 25 — searching intensely for the “right way” to God. Although I was always aware that God was with me on the journey, I clearly sensed that some spiritual practices were going to leave me empty-handed, or stranded in deserts of unfulfilled expectations.

At age 21, I had a dream in which Jesus presented himself to me as the one in whom I should put my faith, as I had earlier in life. Then he made me a promise which, in a variety of ways, has been fulfilled. At the time, I had still been visiting monasteries of several spiritual movements; now I returned to my Christian faith and, at 25, joined the Catholic Church.

Today, 33 years later, as a Catholic priest raising a six-month old child, I look back and wonder at this mysterious process still unfolding in my life. I — a flawed work-in-progress — continue struggling to discern God’s will, and to do what is right and good in the midst of this difficult world.

Saturday, I sat beside a middle-aged (but still very young) searcher. He and a highly devout friend were celebrating their engagement. For his part, although his conversation was punctuated throughout by the Word of God, he has never been able to feel at home in any particular church.

Why? Because everywhere he goes, they make choices, and these choices limit what he feels is the fullness of God’s message. - Or maybe he never received the answers he needed after the tragic death of his first wife.

Following that gathering, I watched, alone, the movie Son of God. With a dozen or so in that theater, I too wanted to witness how an entire life so profoundly central to human history could be presented in just two hours.

The problem with making movies about the Life of Christ is that no one will be satisfied with the choices that have to be made. But without those choices, no movie would be possible. Even God had to make choices, to redeem us from our miserable human condition with a real human being.

Religion is all about choices. Yes, we want to find the Truth that’s out there, waiting to be discovered. But if we want to live in whatever truth we encounter, in order to walk in faith, we have to take the inherent risks. 

One risk is being wrong, making a mistake, having to go back and begin again. So what. With God, there’s absolutely no wasted time, no useless experience, nothing that doesn’t serve our ultimate good. The only real mistakes in issues of religion are choosing darkness, hatred and preju-dice, or putting ourselves at the center of our own spiritual universe, or doing what far too many people do, for fear of being wrong: i.e. nothing.

It helps to remember that, before we ever chose Him, God had chosen us. It also helps to remember that, in choosing to live by faith, we choose life.

 

Dean McFalls, P.O. Box 1559, French Camp, CA 95231, 209-969-3624

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