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I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

FAITH – ANSWER OR QUESTION

Does your spirituality provide the answers or does it help you live
with the questions?

This is a very important and easily misunderstood proposition that
shapes how you live and what religion you may or may not subscribe to.
Frequently people mistake faith for belief. This is why many say "I am
spiritual, but not religious". Depending on how a particular religion
handles "questions" will depend on the belief system that demands
observance. When religion encourages and probes the questions of life,
it deepens faith. However, when religion demands subservience and
unquestioning obedience, then it seals up the depth of the soul to a
surface level. Have I lost you? Here's a story out of my past.

When I was living in Morocco there was an occasion when I was asked to
travel to a small town in the west of the country to say mass for a
small group of Catholics. Accompanying me was a Moroccan friend who
was Muslim in name only. After the mass we were on a bus when a man
engaged me in conversation as an American. He invited us to lunch and
by the time we were seated in his home he had a group of his friends
join us. The usual questions began to arise. Do you believe in God?
Yes. Do you believe God is one? Yes. Do you believe Mohammed is his
prophet? Just about that moment there was the call to prayer. Only one
of them was a faithful practicing Muslim. He got up and left the
circle to pray. While he was praying the others were drilling me to
the point of some discomfort. When prayer was done, the faithful
Muslim returned to the circle and gazed into my eyes without a word
but a look of recognition, a look of one faithful believer to another.
This silenced the others.

One my great heroes, Thomas Merton, whose books have drawn many people
to contemplative prayer was a great Catholic monk. He was a true man
of the world before he was drawn to the monastery and to silence. He
died at a conference of Catholic and non-Christian monks in Bangkok on
his way to a conference of monks in dialogue with Zen Buddhism. The
beauty of this is the fact that these men of such profoundly different
religious backgrounds found their commonality in silence.

I have often experienced in other cities where I have lived the
gathering of religious leaders both Christian and non-Christian who
could gather monthly for fellowship yet the members of our
congregations would do "battle or war" with one another over religion.

Religion gives me rituals and a language to challenge my easily set
beliefs. It gives me comfort. Religion has given me community and
friendship. Religion has given me the opportunity to travel and know
something of the world. It has expanded my heart and my mind. But it
is faith that has left me in silence before a mother holding her still
born child. It is faith that stills my soul when tragedy strikes. It
is faith that leaves me in awe gazing at a "super moon" or a full
rainbow.

Religion and distorted belief can lead men into war or bombing a
clinic. But faith is what leads men and women to gaze into the wonder
of another's soul. Belief can blind a person to recognize the
intrinsic dignity of an enemy. Religion can incite an army into
battle. Faith is able to embrace the person who has been wounded or
abused by belief. Faith recognizes the non-believer as a brother or
sister. Religion can encourage service to the faithless but faith will
empower that service.

So, does your faith embrace questions, or does it confine you with its answers?

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