Most people are afraid to talk about their faith in public. Aside from political correctness, it is an invite to the endless and sometimes pointless debate.
But lately, the common ground especially among millennials, is not religion but spirituality. The word evokes multifarious realities and somehow veers away from a perceived Catholic black-eye called dogma. The essence of poetic truth wafts through the air like the smell of familiar adobo in my wife’s busy kitchen. What is good in the sense of smell must be delicately masticated in one’s quest for the divine.
In my household though, I found it hard to be in deep conversation with regard to spirituality. Religion, especially being Catholic, is a lot easier: the do’s and don’ts are quite defined, like black is black and white is white. But I always feel a sense of uneasiness when faith is seen in black and white: which means that either it has become academic (for example, 1 plus 1 is equal to 2); or, faith has gone commercial and is only skin-deep like our favourite Eskinol.
Jeremiah, the prophet in the Old Testament, attested to his revelatory experience about faith:
“O Lord…you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed…within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones.” (20:7, 9)
There. ..there is the faith I am talking about that throbs in the very sinew of the believer! The same believer who cursed the day he was born and asked, “Why did I come forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow…” (Jer 20:18).
Faith then is an overpowering fire of God which sees beyond the shoreless ocean of suffering, to paraphrase an illustrious quote from the 20th century German theologian Romano Guardini. It is quite perplexing somehow that faith to be truly what it is, has to go through a form of suffering. Perhaps the reason why poverty attracts so much faith; but so does pandemic. The parity for religious practice comes to question when some government allows less faithful to attend the Holy Eucharist while dining out attracts crowds aplenty and it is somehow okay? The superficiality of it all, i.e. faith driven by an outside event or catastrophe, begs the question in times of normality and prosperity when such poverty, pandemic or the like ceases to exist. Would faith subsist in plenty, the idolatrous abundance of not ever wanting something?
The signs of the times point to the pangs of birth, that moment of utmost pain that every mother endures in order to behold her likeness. That is faith in the momentous hours of a person in love. Giving birth is tunnelling through a deathly maze, hoping against hope to see the beloved in the light of day. Ask every woman who is in love, to the point of risking herself in these so-called pangs. There is faith and hope that could be viewed from the corner of her eye: boundless, alive and seemingly everlasting.
There should be no fear amongst us believers to delve into the depths of our faith. The Sacred Scripture has given us domestic leads to understand our faith. Like a house built on a rock, the gospel of Matthew reminded us in chapter 7 and verse 24, that we who hear God’s words and act on them are wise because when “the rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house” it did not fall because of its strong foundation. Likewise, prayer is like cleaning that house and getting rid of all the unwanted dirt. Meditation is being in your garden, mowing and pulling out unwanted weeds, watering the plants and setting up a place for birds to visit and at times nest.
Faith has a face and the eloquence of our households, despite the petty disagreements and uncanny reconciliations, points to more than a skin-deep “eskinol” Catholic faith and rooted in the abiding love that once again wafts through the air like the smell of familiar adobo in my wife’s busy kitchen.