A Faith For Others
Thoughts on the First Readings – Joe Frankenfield
7th Sunday of Easter
Acts 1:15-17, 20-26
“The Catholic hierarchy has been disinviting people like me, and especially women like me, for so many years that I finally took the hint.” That’s how the journalist and novelist, Anna Quindlen, in a recent interview explained her decision to leave the Catholic Church. Along with experiencing personal rejection she viewed her mere presence in the pew as sanctioning actions and attitudes that she sees as seriously wrong.
I enjoy and respect Quindlen and her work. I also understand the pain that some Catholics, especially Catholic leaders, cause her and others. I hope her leaving isn’t a permanent departure but I can’t blame her or anyone who decides enough is enough.
There’s something to keep in mind, however. In her interview Quindlen mentioned that she often thinks how “fantastic [the world] is and there’s so many opportunities to do good and to be happy. And I think that comes from some deep-faith place that started in religion and now transcends it.” Such awareness doesn’t arise without guidance from others and it doesn’t survive life’s chaos without others’ support. We depend upon a community for the core of our spirituality.
We may come to a point where we’ve developed a sufficient number of friends who share and sustain our spirituality that we could get along well without formal ties to the institutional Church: we wouldn’t forget who Christ is and who we are; we wouldn’t lose heart in the struggle for justice. If that’s so, we’ve also reached the point in our lives when we have something valuable to share, especially with those younger than ourselves. The Spirit has given us wisdom and fortitude. Those gifts aren’t for our personal satisfaction; they’re given us for the community and, ultimately, for the kingdom of God.
It would be wonderful if the world beat a path to our door seeking what we’ve learned but it won’t. Sharing the Spirit’s gifts is demanding. The complaint that just when I’ve actually got something useful to say nobody wants to listen is time-honored. And it’s inevitable that those we would most like to hear what we have learned are the most difficult to speak with.
The First Book of Kings tells of the prophet Elijah becoming disheartened in his struggle to bring people faith. At his wit’s end he retreats into the desert hoping to die. But the Lord comes to him in a silent, light breeze, the kind that barely rustles leaves let alone makes spectacular changes, and leads the prophet back into his work.
To continue working for God’s world when we see no proof that we make any difference is life’s ultimate challenge. We have received faith from others for others. It’s not our own.