It is Holy Saturday today, and on this day the sacraments of the church are not celebrated until tonight when we celebrate the Easter Vigil, the ultimate liturgy of the Church year. Holy Saturday is a day of waiting. The memory of the suffering and death of Jesus commemorated yesterday is uppermost in our minds and we eagerly await tonight’s feast of faith.
One of the most moving moments in the Church year is the Good Friday afternoon veneration of the Cross. Churches are often full for this solemn ceremony held at 3.00pm, the hour of Jesus’ death. During this liturgy those gathered come forward in an gesture of veneration of the cross.
The young and the old process forward. The sick and the athletic, those who are at church regularly and those who might come only once or twice a year.
For the rest of the year the cross may hang on our wall or on the end of rosary beads, but on Good Friday we make intimate physical contact with the cross on which Jesus was crucified. This intimacy in a gentle touch or a kiss is real for us because we too suffer, at times we are betrayed or abandoned, and one day we will all experience death at the end of our earthly life. When we venerate the cross we are aware of our own suffering and we feel at one with Jesus.
Most of the time we do our best to avoid suffering and we run from death. But Good Friday brings us to our knees with the knowledge that God in Jesus loves us enough to die for us.
As I watched parishioners come forward yesterday afternoon I was deeply moved realising that every one of these people is a person of faith.
I often hear people comment that they feel that their faith is very weak. I can understand what they are saying and their feeling is often my feeling too. But the reality is that faith is not given in degrees. Each of us either has faith or we do not.
Before you presume that a feeling of weak faith means no faith, remember that faith is the gift that is given by God in baptism. If you have been baptised, you have been given faith.
If I spend years acting against God (sub-consciously or even consciously), then I will eventually lose sight of the faith I have received, but the faith remains. The moment that I wake up to the fact that all the money, power, sex, entertainments and other satisfactions that I can grasp will never satisfy me, then in that moment I am once again seeing with the eyes of faith.
If you know what I am talking about when you read this then, without a doubt, you have faith. Remember there are not degrees of faith: you have faith or you do not.
Here is another test. Read these couple of paragraphs from a book called The Holy Longing and notice your thoughts and feelings as you read:
As you were reading those paragraphs what were you thinking and feeling? If you felt any sense of hope, encouragement, understanding or excitement then, without a doubt, you have faith.
Remember that saints are not those who don’t sin. Saints are those who sin and who keep responding to the desire they feel by turning back to God. Saints are sinners who live as people of faith.
Take a moment to ponder this fact:
If you have read to this point of this reflection then, without a doubt, you are a person of faith. There is no other possible reason for reading to the end of a reflection about faith.
Over the next 24 hours every time your phone rings, take two seconds before answering to thank God for giving you faith.