Dwell in Me

There are often many an argument about what it truly means to be a faith-filled person. Some will argue that to be a truly faith-filled person you must be all things Catholic. Some come at it from the perspective of being penitent, of always reminding ourselves that we are sinners. Others will argue that you need to be well-versed in Scripture and fully understand the four pillars of the faith. Still others will argue that they are Spiritual not religious; the arguments go on and on; there are so many more that would take up several pages of this newspaper. 

From my perspective all of these arguments hold a measure of truth, and it is a combination of these that I seek. Yes, I enjoy some of the rituals of our Catholic heritage and understand the meaning behind most of them. Yet there are rituals that remind me of my childhood and my initiation into my faith journey, and do not hold the same meaning for me as they did in my youth.  As for constantly being a penitent Catholic, I must confess, I am still in my infancy when it comes to this part of my faith journey. Yes I freely admit I am a sinner; that I don’t always get it right the first, second or even the 50th time, but I am learning. But I dare say I am in good company here, St. Paul had to be knocked to his senses before he got it. St. Peter was scared and ran off after being questioned; and Jesus Himself, dined with some pretty shady characters. 

When it comes to Scripture, I enjoy reading the Bible and take comfort from the written words in good and bad times. Just don’t ask me which chapter and verse my favorite lines come from.  I can generally point you in the right direction, but to say I have memorized the pages, chapters or verse numbers, would require me spending some amount of time in Confession. I do however know the four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, thanks to the Holy Union Sisters who drummed this into my head as a child. The Sisters also thought me the four pillars: The Creed, which sums up all that we as Catholics believe; the Sacraments, which bring us God’s grace as we grow in our faith journey; the Commandments which serve as guidelines for living a Christian life, keeping us in a loving relationship with God (Abba) our Father; and The Our Father which sums up the four Gospels, taught to us by Jesus, giving us the Words to speak in prayer to Abba (God). 

So would I say I was Spiritual, religious or just someone occupying a pew on Sunday; on any given weekend I can be one or all. Yet I continue to attend Sunday after Sunday, why, because I am broken, I am still searching, I am a sinner, a saint, and a work in progress. Would I say I am a faith-filled person? Absolutely, as are each and every one of you. Why? Because we are a people of hope, a people who love and long to be loved; a people who give freely of themselves and when able, of their treasures as well; a people that God recognized as needing His loving mercy and grace, not giving up on us. God is not seeking perfection from us (He knows we are not perfect, that is why He sent Jesus to us); God wants us to fall in love with Him each and every day, to desire to be in a relationship with Him; to understand that we are clay to be molded, and He is the Potter. In His hands we are all masterpieces, lovingly created by Him, vessels to be filled with his love, mercy and grace.  

 In turn, we are given the Spiritual gifts we need, to share our imperfection, our brokenness with others. Giving others the hope that God is love, God is mercy and if we truly desire, we can enter into a life-giving relationship with Him. We are “Wounded Healers” as Henri J. M. Nouwen refers to in his book by that title; it is in our brokenness that we can reach out and help others heal their own brokenness.

As for me, being a faith-filled person is to recognize that God truly wants me to love Him, and that He offers me a pure and unconditional love. Trusting the voice that says, “I love you. I knit you together in your mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13), and believing that we are all welcomed and cared for. If that is not sufficient enough, we are reminded by Jesus’ death and Resurrection, that we were and continue to be invited to share Christ’s intimate life with the Father; Jesus wants His home to be ours, wanting to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house (“The Inner Voice of Love” by Henri J. M. Nouwen). God is at the very core of my faith and Spiritual life, teaching me to dwell in the present, trusting that I am cared for and loved. Jesus reminds us to “dwell in Me as I dwell in you,” and I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be.

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. rsaraiva@dfrcs.com.

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