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Part Three of series by Chris Wira
Some of the special moments I’ve had in discussing my faith with others are the times when people are pleasantly surprised by what I share. Very often, the teachings of our faith are assumed to be the same as other Christian denominations. There have been several times where it turned out I was the first Catholic to speak with them about our Church. It’s an amazing opportunity to share the unique understanding of, and the relationship with God that our Faith provides.
I have found that most people are willing to listen to a perspective other than their own about the Faith, when that perspective is shared with love and patience. People are good at heart, and yearn to understand the mysteries of life. Moreover, they may very well sense that there is more to their life than what they currently recognize, but have not yet been able to clarify or discern God’s whispering call. They may long to understand our Faith, if for no other reason, than because they can see how it radiates through our words and actions with quiet comfort and joy.
While the vast majority of interactions will be good, I have also encountered discussion where it has seemed a wall needed to be taken down before getting to the good stuff. Some people carry an outward bitterness towards religion in general. I have found that many people claiming to be atheist use this term as a shield to keep overly aggressive people of various faiths away. For people in these types of situations, it is better to let them open up first. With a little patience, they will start the discussion. This occurs, because they have actually yearned for this type of conversation. They have been waiting for the right time and person that allows them to share their perspectives without being attacked or insulted. These usually end up being wonderful discussions.
There are also people that are specifically angry with the Catholic Church often because of the sexual abuse scandals. When these opinions are voiced, I share that I too have felt hurt, perhaps as much, but most likely more. Yet, I gently note that the Church has taken many good steps to prevent such evil activity from happening again. I also share the importance of not letting people’s evil actions discourage a relationship with God, as well as other good people.
Other questions can crop up regarding suffering, evolution, free choice, the Eucharist, the Trinity, and/or whether God should be called “him” or “her”, to name but a few. When sharing Catholic teaching on specific issues in response to questions and concerns, often people are happily surprised at how much more similar our beliefs and values are to their hearts, wants, and hopes than they had realized.
When I have discussion with people of non-Christian faiths, questions about similarities and differences often come down to whether Jesus is God or not; as some believe he was just a good man or prophet. There are several ways I typically respond, but with each of them, my main goal is to leave them with something to ponder in the future. What I have found to be the most thought provoking question is to ask: Why does just about every religion in the world, regardless of when it began, have an opinion about Jesus?
We also need to remember that people are looking for more than mere words. They accurately sense congruity or incongruity between what we say and what we do or don’t do. Sharing God’s Love with courage, patience, and humility helps others recognize how the Catholic Faith has lifted our hearts, minds, and souls. From this, our words gain an unspoken authenticity, and the workings of the Holy Spirit become more clearly evident.
And yet, if someone doesn’t respond, don’t worry. The impact of what you have lovingly shared might not be recognized for years, but God can grow anything from even a small seed. Pray for the person to receive God’s Mercy and Love. Prayer is the most powerful gift God has given us. Having done your best, God will do the rest. Joyfully trust in God, and allow His Love to bring peace.
Chris Wira grew up in Hanover, New Hampshire within St Denis Parish, earned an Economics Degree from the University of New Hampshire, and then moved to Los Angeles as a musician. After recording seven albums, both classical and rock n’ roll, he has returned to the upper valley. For a sample of a song of his about God’s love see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwsqpup3buQ&feature=channel&list=UL