Recently I had a discussion with a person in charge of running some Adult Faith Formation programs in their parish. This individual was lamenting the fact that participation in their offerings was in a serious decline. This lead to an examination of what courses had been offered and how often they had been run. It seemed to me that what was being offered was to aid in the understanding doctrine or learn more about how to be a better Catholic. Additionally some of the programs were more along the line of learning a specific spirituality that you could model your own spiritual life around.
Later that day as my wife was engrossed in the HGTV program “fixer upper” I had a revelation that this is exactly what many desire from these formation programs. They want to reconfigure or update their spiritual lives because It had not been worked on in some time. They seek something because their spiritual life had become outdated or had deteriorated. So the answer is to find the right person or program to get us where we feel renewed.
I do believe what we fail to understand as we attempt to spiritually renovate ourselves is that all renovations are just that – renovations. The foundation of what we rebuild around remains unchanged. The overall structural deficiencies and flaws often remain in place as we work around these or simply cover them up.
What we are missing as we work so hard to study, to learn and to adapt what we are being taught is an encounter with God. I personally have known men and women who have dramatically changed because of their involvement in Cursillo, Charismatic Renewal, Alpha and other such movements within the church. I know personally a man who walked into a Billy Graham Crusade in a drunken stupor and was totally changed as he opened himself to seek Christ instead of what he was chasing. Thousands upon thousands of men and women have had their lives totally changed by just that – seeking to be touched by Jesus Christ instead of learning about Christ. They were not attempting to simply remake their spiritual lives, they sought God. They went beyond learning and sought something they knew was missing in themselves; something that ached to be touched.
If we would admit it, what we need but do not seek is a radical change inside of us. We need to be so changed that we become mountain movers. A certainty in us that allows our faith to become so strong that we become the temple of the living God. This is not so that we radiate with the glory of God; although that is possible. What we seek is that faith which gives us the “assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). We want to know without a doubt is that the promises of God are true and are ours through belief in Jesus Christ. What we need most is not another program but a clear way to obtain what Christ offered us by his life, death and resurrection.
What Christ offers us is radically different than a renovation; he offers us a new heart and new desires. Paul says this better than I can when he said, “(God) made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Isn’t righteousness what we most desire by seeking to grow spiritually? Righteousness is ours, a gift and benefit of belief in Christ. That kind of belief takes a faith that moves us beyond doubt so that we know that the ;promises of God are ours. Not because we earned any of them but because of God’s grace. Righteousness is ours as pure gift if we believe.
Yet we often ignore this gift and we attempt to gain holiness by learning about God or about our faith. When we do that we fall into the same sin as Adam. He was tempted by devil to eat of the “tree of knowledge” for its fruit would open their eyes and they will be like God” So why do we continue to go to this tree of knowledge to be holy instead of going to the tree of crucifixion.
God did not sacrifice his Son only for our eternal salvation. He sent his Son so that we might regain our righteousness and our rightful place as sons and daughters. Accepting this gift offered to us by God requires us to surrender our desire to become holy through our own effort and allow God to change us completely. This is not a fix up job that God has in mind it is a tear apart and rebuild on a different foundation.
We are offered a by God something that was totally changes how we approach our faith. There is a way for us to be so totally different that we are unrecognizable from the person we once were. Paul the apostle says it this way, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” 2 Cor. 5:17).
It is in our becoming this new creation that we begin to exercise our faith in ways that can move mountains and have us walk on water. The key to attaining this kind of faith does not happen because we go through a program. That kind of faith comes through an encounter with and embracing Christ as savior. It is when we acknowledge all we need is found in him that he begins to speak to our hearts. “Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard is comes through the word of Christ “(Rom. 10:17).