November 2, 2012

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Encountering Jesus in today’s world

David SilerThe Catholic Church recently launched a worldwide initiative proclaiming the Year of Faith that will run now through November 2013.

Pope Benedict XVI declared the Year of Faith as a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world,” in his apostolic letter, “Porta Fidel.” This initiative is a call for all of us to enter into for the first time or to deepen our relationship with Jesus.

Of course, there are many ways for us to encounter Jesus. The Catholic Church offers us the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, where we can be regularly nourished by communion with Christ. Taking time to read and study Scripture and the great writings of the Church are other powerful ways.

I have often wondered about the way for conversion to happen. Do we encounter Christ and become converted, which then leads us to live out our faith by serving others? Or do we serve others and in the process encounter Christ and become faithful? I have experienced that both ways are possible.

I have known countless people who have followed the full prescription for being Catholic by following all of the “right” practices, but never truly have a personal encounter with Jesus until they have entered into an authentic relationship with someone who is suffering deeply.

Or they themselves have been suffering, and someone has come to their aid and been an expression of the love of Jesus for them. It is no real mystery here when we know that Jesus told us that we would find him in the “poor” of every kind.

I have also known many people who have come to a profound faith in Jesus that, in turn, propels them to live out their faith by serving those most in harm’s way.

When we experience an authentic conversion to the Lord, our renewed faith has to find some expression in the world. The second chapter of the book of James expresses it appropriately when he writes that “... faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:17).

In the social services world, the big buzz phrase is “measureable outcomes.” I would suggest that the measureable outcomes, or the authenticity of our faith as Catholics, can be summarized by Chapter 25 of St. Matthew’s Gospel.

Jesus told us that when we feed the hungry and shelter the homeless for the “least” of his people that we do it for him. He waved a big, bright flag for us to say, “If you want to find me, here I am!”

Catholic Charities, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, your parish social ministries and many other outreaches are very real and practical ways that the Church puts into practice its faith in the God who brings healing and redemption.

These programs offer people unlimited opportunities to live out their faith by working with some of the most vulnerable in our midst.

Most importantly, those we serve have the opportunity to experience the tangible love of God. In turn, they are called to this same conversion.

(David Siler is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at

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