8th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: February 27, 2022
Who is someone you go to for direction in your life? Who is someone you speak to when you are looking for guidance? Is there someone you like to read or someone you follow on social media who you use as a guide in your faith life?
Spiritual Direction is a part of our Catholic tradition. Most priests and religious will have a spiritual director to offer support and guidance in their faith life. Most of us have certain people who have guided us in our faith life. For some it is parents or grandparents. For some it was certain teachers or certain priests. For some it is a friend or perhaps a fellow parishioner we respect. For some it is a spiritual writer or more and more today it may be some figure we follow on social media. It is important for us to have good guides or directors walking with us on our journey of faith.
Jesus says, “Can a blind person guide a blind person?” They will both end up in a pit. We need to examine carefully who we have as guides in our life. We also need to look at how we can be guides for others, how we can share the faith in a good way.
What should we look for in those who will be guides for us in our life of faith?
St. Teresa of Avila, who struggled to find a good spiritual director in her life, said that she would prefer a learned director rather than a holy one. You want someone who is learned and experienced. Otherwise I will be guided by a “blind” guide.
The Bible itself can be a guide as well in our faith life. But, only if we use it properly. The Church teaches that the Bible has the truth needed for salvation. The Bible is a guide to salvation, to a loving relationship with the living God. The Bible is not necessarily a guide in science or medical care. Use the Bible as a guide to salvation, a relationship with God, but not as a scientific or medical guide.
If someone is a guide in our life, perhaps someone we follow on social media, we should ask ourselves some questions about their influence. Does their guidance make me a more loving, joyful person or does it tend to make me bitter and angry? Does this guide lead me to deeper communion with the Church, with the Pope, with our fellow Catholics or does it lead me to division, to separation from the Church, the Pope and our fellow Catholics. A good guide should always lead us to greater communion.
I remember a man years ago who was at daily Mass and a really good Catholic man. After a health issue he was forced to stay at home for a while and he began to follow this figure on social media. Someone who was constantly angry and bitter and critical of everything about the church today. Soon this poor man was becoming bitter and angry himself. He stopped coming to Mass. This supposedly Catholic figure was leading this poor man away from communion with the Church, while believing he was so Catholic.
Look at the fruit in your life from the influence of any supposed guides, especially on social media. If you find yourself becoming bitter or angry, if you find yourself being led away from communion with the Church, including the Pope, then examine if you really want this person as a guide. Is this not a blind person leading another blind person into a pit as Jesus says?
What about you and me being guides or sharing our faith with others? How do we share our faith and assist others in following the life of Catholic faith?
Cardinal Tagle the Filipino Cardinal, was speaking at a Symposium on the Priesthood at the Vatican recently. He was speaking about how we share the faith. He told the story of visiting a school with a group of children who were studying the Catholic catechism. The Cardinal was wondering what the children were learning and asked them, “what is the one thing you remember from your catechism class?” One little girl put her hand up and answered, “Quiet, quiet!!!” Sometimes we wonder why people do not accept the faith or leave the faith. If that is the way in which the faith was shared with them by parents, teachers, catechists, priests, it is no wonder that so many do not accept it. We can only evangelize, we can only share the faith if we are joyful.
There is another story of a man who had a large dog and each day would give the dog some cod liver oil for its health. He described how the dog always fought and resisted taking the cod liver oil. Well, each day he would grab the dog and force open its mouth and pour the cod liver oil into its mouth. One day as he grabbed the dog to force the cod liver oil in, the dog managed to break loose and the bottle with the oil fell and broke. To the owners surprise, the dog walked back and starting licking up the cod liver oil. It turned out that it was not that the dog disliked the cod liver oil, it was that the dog disliked the way it was being given to him.
Often people do not dislike the faith, they dislike the way it has been given to them. Anger, bitter, upset, judgemental people do not help in sharing the Good News of the Faith.
We all need good guides or directors that assist us on the journey of faith. Look for good guides. Family, friends, parishioners, priests, spiritual writers or good Christian figures. But ask yourself, is this person someone who leads me to be angry and bitter or do they lead me to being more loving and joyful? Does this person lead me away from communion with the Church or into greater communion with the Church?
We also need to be good guides for others. How do we share the faith with children, grandchildren, with friends, fellow parishioners, with co-workers and so on? However we share the faith, make sure we do it joyfully. A bitter, angry evangelizer only drives people away from the faith.
Do not follow “blind” guides and do not be a “blind” guide. If I am not joyful in my faith then I should not try to share it with anyone else.