"Return of the Prodigal Son" (detail) by Murillo

“Return of the Prodigal Son” (detail) by Murillo

I sometimes wonder why I don’t have more faith. If only my faith was stronger, I think, what amazing things I could do for the Lord. If only I more deeply appreciated the gift of faith I have received. Right? I bet you sometimes wonder the same things about yourself.

In today’s Gospel (cf. Matthew 13:44-52), Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms what a great gift our faith is and how precious is His Kingdom.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46).

We should not feel too bad if we do not yet have the faith we desire and that the Lord has planned for us… that is as long as we are willing NOW to give up everything to receive it. Even the Apostles understood that they were lacking in a deep faith and asked the Lord to increase their faith (cf. Luke 17:5-10).

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down at table’?  Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink’?  Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?  So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Luke 17:5-10)

Reflect on how Jesus replied to them. Imagine Him smiling as he said that the faith they had was a gift from Him and that if they but embraced and accepted that gift, they would do mighty works for the Kingdom. All of us Catholics have received the same gift of faith from Jesus. Do we realize what a treasure it is? If we did, there would be no power that could prevent us from sharing it with everyone we encounter in this life, both family and stranger.

We know that the practice of the Catholic faith has declined severely across Europe. We also know that it is growing rapidly in the Southern Hemisphere. The practice of the Catholic faith remains strong in the United States, doesn’t it?

Let me ask a question…

What is the largest religious body in the United States?  It is the Catholic Church. More than 78 million people identify themselves as Catholics. That’s about 25% of the population. But, some estimates, based on polling data, indicate that only about 35 million of those Catholics attend Mass on a “somewhat” regular basis. And that number falls to about 25 million who attend Mass weekly or more frequently.

The next largest group of self-identified non-Catholic Christians in the United States is the Southern Baptist Convention who number a little less than 16 million according to the latest statistics available. The next largest group is fewer than those with no religion at all… about 13 million who indicate they follow no religion.

But, any way you slice it, the second largest religious group in America is that of non-practicing Catholics who either do not practice any faith or who have joined other, non-Catholic religious groups… maybe 37 million or higher.

A Challenge for All of Us

Jesus has made clear that nothing is more important than our faith and His Kingdom. So, here are three things we should do immediately.

1. Surrender to Christ

We are to sacrifice and give up everything for for the Kingdom of Heaven. If you examine your life, honestly, humbly and prayerfully, you will be shown what is keeping you from growing in faith and securing your place in the Kingdom.

2. Be a Witness for Christ

We should shout with joy and share the good news of the Kingdom with everyone we encounter.  And maybe that should begin with “fallen-away” Catholics. Is there someone in your family who has stopped practicing their Catholic faith? Do you know friends and family members that are practicing another faith or maybe no faith at all? What can we do to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church with them?

If you need resources to help you, the entire body of articles ever published on ICL is available in our archives. Just click on any menu item or section heading.

Also, take a look at CatholicsComeHome.org, an organization that produces effective media messages to invite Catholics to come home. From resources on their website, you can learn how to invite your friends, neighbors and family members back to the Catholic Church. I encourage you to view their ads and support their work.

3. Just Pray and Get Started

Most of all, just do it! Each of us, in our own way, have gone our own ways at different times. It’s time to get our priorities straight. So, ask for forgiveness (sacramental if necessary), offer a prayer of praise, thanksgiving and petition to God in the name of the Lord, and invite someone to go to Mass with you. Let’s do this.

Into the deep…

Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.

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