While some of my articles are directed to atheists and agnostics, this meditation is directed to all who practice some kind of faith on a regular or semi-regular basis. Especially for each of us who identify ourselves as a Christian, please read on.
The questions below are for you to reflect on, keeping in mind the overall question: “Is My Faith Alive?”. This article is similar to “examination of conscience” mediations that you can find elsewhere on the internet. But in this case, the focus is on determining if your faith is a living one.
Of course, you may also use this article to aid in doing an “examination of conscience”. Catholics in particular should be doing an “examination of conscience” prior to attending the Sacrament of Penance. But all Christians are invited to examine their consciences frequently as we all need to confess our sins to the Lord. Ideally an examination of conscience (also called an “examen”) should be done daily. But weekly or even monthly examens are much better than none at all.
Questions to ponder:
Is my faith really part of my day-to-day living or do I compartmentalize my faith? Am I one who attends weekly Mass or other church services but then spends the rest of the week living a life as if God doesn’t exist?
What is my primary motivation for attending weekly services (or Mass)? Am I looking to develop a closer relationship with God or am I just trying to “do enough” to stay out of Hell? Do I really try to get the most out of each Mass (or service)? Am I just there because of others expectations? Are there “social reasons” (family, friends, career) that are my primary motivations for attending Mass or other church services?
How often do I pray? How much time each day do I spend in prayer? Do I start each day offering everything to God and do I end each day with a prayer of thanksgiving? When I pray, am I just asking God favors for myself or do I spend time adoring him, asking for forgiveness of my sins, thanking him for his many blessings, and praying for the well-being of others?
How much time do I spend each week, outside of weekly Mass/services, learning more about the Church, Jesus Christ, the saints, or other aspects of a holy life? Do I regularly read the Bible, other spiritual readings, or view audio-video media where the focus is on some aspect of the spiritual life?
Do I share elements of my faith with others? Do my closest friends know about my faith? Are the people with whom I work with each day, aware of what church I attend or know what denomination I am a member of? If I were to die today, would my co-workers, friends, and acquaintances identify me as a Christian or religious person?
Do I feed the hungry , give drink to thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit those in prison? Do I care for my neighbors as much as I care for myself?
Am I doing all that I can to live as God intends me to? Do I love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength?
If you carefully and honestly reflect on the above questions, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to whether your faith is alive. If you’re like me, you’ll see a lot of room for improvement. For when I carefully ponder the above questions, concerning my own life, I don’t like all the answers I see.
The good news is that God understands us better than we do. He knows our strengths and limitations. We can pray to him for wisdom and insight into how he wishes us to live. While there have been many stories about “miraculous conversions” usually the Lord works gradually in terms of bringing us to greater holiness. If we continually pray for God’s guidance and direction, he will take us by the hand one step at a time. We only need to ask for his help.
As your faith becomes more alive, you’ll be wanting to do those very things you thought were difficult or impossible before. Though I still have a very long way to go in holiness, I’m now able to share my faith with others. Something that, just a couple of years ago, I never would have considered I’d be able to do.
Keep in mind, there are many ways to serve the Lord. Your faith may be more alive than you think! Have you recently visited an elderly friend, parent, or other loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility? Then you likely have visited someone who is “in prison” and probably “cared for the sick” at the same time!
So pray to God frequently. Ask him to help you identify ways to demonstrate your faith. Make your faith a truly living faith. For in the Letter of James (2:26) we read: “For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead”.
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(This article was first posted August 25, 2017.)