Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Learning the Faith, One Action at a Time

One of my favorite shows of all time is “The Twilight Zone.” So many of these episodes are timeless tales of the nature of humanity, the decisions we make, and how those decisions impact other people.

One episode, “The Changing of the Guard,” tells the story of a teacher, Professor Ellis Fowler, who was being forced into retirement. Deeply depressed, he looks through old yearbooks and becomes convinced that his lessons haven’t helped anyone. He considers taking his life, but is visited by ghosts of former students, who tell him that they have become better people. By the end of the episode, he realizes that he has changed the lives of people, and that’s because he saw his work not as just a job, but as a vocation and he cared about all his students.

The thing I love with “The Twilight Zone” is many episodes make you think, and address timeless issues. This particular episode showed what can happen when a person lives for other people.

Being a witness is so important in how we live out our faith. Jesus in this week’s Gospel asks who the apostles think He is; Peter speaks up and says that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

It will take time for them to all understand what this means, but eventually once they do understand, they will live out the faith as witnesses for it. The follower of Christ has to respond to that faith. Professor Ellis responded to his call to teach, and changed many lives because of it. The question for us is are we going to do as Jesus commanded us, and live our lives for others by proclaiming His Gospel through words and actions?

Doing that is a daily effort.

For one, we must never forget while we say every week in our Creed who God is, understanding the meaning behind those words takes effort. Every day we need to grow in our faith through prayer, being engaged in Mass, and celebrating the sacraments. We also look for ways to learn more about the faith, something that doesn’t end once we finish Confirmation. There is so much good stuff out there, from good Catholic websites, to the Catholic Bible with footnotes, to multimedia presentations and video and other good content at sites such as formed.org, EWTN.com, USCCB.org, wordonfire.org, catholic.org and archspm.org, our own archdiocese’s website, just to name a few. (And this may shock you, but there are also many anti-Catholic sites out there too, or inaccurate sites – so just make sure to check the source. Catholic books always have an “imprimatur” from a bishop).  Whether you are a convert or a cradle Catholic, there’s so much about our faith we might not know or need clarity on

But then faith has to be lived out. If we say we know who Christ is, it will show in our lives. For the professor in the Twilight Zone episode, it was the daily interactions that he had with his students, his daily efforts into preparing for his classes, and the time he took with them that added up over the course of a lifetime. Such is the case with us as well. To be a witness to the truth, to be an evangelist, is not just a part-time affair. Rather, it entails sacrifice and commitment. It can even entail suffering. The problem is sometimes people can think of heaven and earth as a kind of double-decker bus. Jesus is “up there” and removed from my life, so I must live “down here” and focus on the things of this world. So many in the world are unable to see Jesus present in our midst because no one has revealed God to them. Daily though the Christian must grow in our understanding of God by seeing Him in our lives, and help others to do that through how we are present for them and how we speak and live out our faith with them.

Like Peter, we say Jesus is Lord – but also like Peter, we have to learn how to live out the words we say. Our task is to serve this King of Kings who loves us so much – daily may we strive to embrace the Holy Spirit who teaches us what it means to have faith, and use the gifts of the Spirit to teach others through our daily actions to do the same.

God bless,

Fr. Paul