As Catholic Christians Christ extends his hand to us and invites every person into a relationship with him. Those who practice the Catholic faith know our faith lives are much more than a “once and done” of saying yes to Jesus. This is not how it works. Our yes to Jesus must come at every moment as we live life, and this is conversion. None of us are in heaven yet no matter how “devout” we may feel we are or no matter how much we devote to prayer.
Getting to know the Lord better through prayer, practicing the sacramental life, and in daily perseverance of life, we can mature in faith. This is not an automatic thing that happens. Just like anything in life that is good, it takes time to develop trust in God and to mature in our faith. Here are some signs of an immature faith to help you get on a better track.
Following the prosperity gospel
We have all heard of the prosperity gospel, and this is basically the gospel of Christ minus the suffering that we all must endure during life as it is inevitable. As the saying goes, “No cross, no crown”. Death is a part of life for every human being; we are all going to die at some point. That being said, no matter how rich, good looking, intelligent, or “controlling” we are, suffering is going to catch up with us at some point. We have a choice to either accept it with grace or to run away from it. Running away comes in many forms including alcohol, drugs, narcissistic personality, greed, selfishness, and the list goes on and on. The prosperity gospel is one that says if I pray hard enough or live my life the “right way” then someday I will be rewarded on earth with either lots of money, a beautiful home, lots of friends, and perfect relationships. Folks, that’s not how our faith works. Jesus suffered out of love. The key to following the real gospel is in imitation of him, not in running away from all suffering. In addition, sadly others suffer when the people they care about run away from them as to avoid pain and suffering. Instead of running away from a suffering person, reach out and be there for them. This is the right thing to do.
Sometime when people come to faith, it is because they have been evangelized by those who are excited to share the gospel. Perhaps good hearted charismatic Catholics or others have reached out in prayer for your conversion. This is a good thing to evangelize, but it should never end there. We are called to reach out to the lonely, the rejected, and those in need. “Holy huddles” or groups of like-minded devout people who are comfortable in their own small groups or communities are not really following the gospel of Christ. Therefore, being involved in some kind of Catholic clique is a sign of immature faith. Jesus would have condemned this activity unless it includes befriending and reaching out to those who do not have the love and support they deserve and those who are not a part of a clique. To grow in faith, be sure to be the type of person who is friendly to everyone, not snobbish, and who believes and understands that openness to new people is a major part of what it means to be Catholic and in following Jesus. There is no doubt that if Jesus were to observe those who are not open to the marginalized, he would be very unhappy. Prayer groups must expand out and not be closed in to outsiders.
There are many forms of check-box Catholicism. Some of them are those who think if they do the right things that they are guaranteed heaven or that they are better in some way than others. This is wrong thinking. Other ways are those who are active in the sacramental life, saying many novenas, participate in prayer groups often believe that they don’t have to do much else. All of these activities are good; however something is missing. What is missing is actually living the gospel. As Catholic Christians we must also live out our baptismal call, vocational call (if there is one of service), in prayer, and in living a life of love and sacrifice for others. In addition, other check-boxes could be sending children to Catholic school or PREP but in doing nothing more to celebrate the faith. These are all examples of checking-off the box. Again, this is not how it works. We have been gifted with our faith and our baptism. Nothing is a check-box. It is another sign of immature faith to not partake each day in what it means to be Catholic and in loving and serving God.
One does not have to be away from the faith to be selfish. There is selfishness both inside and outside the church. It is sad to see, and it is also a sign of an undeveloped faith. Selfishness is when we put ourselves first in most circumstances. Even those who go to daily mass, who pray daily, and who may even have specific vocational calling can give in to this. The antidote is to love and care for the marginalized, those who suffer, and to be a person of care and compassion in imitation of Christ. Selfishness is also a sign of immature faith.
There are more signs of an undeveloped faith, and these are some. The best way to mature in faith is to pray for humility for oneself and to act on it. Listen more and talk less. Care more and avoid selfishness and church snobbery. Remember that being Catholic is, was, and always will be about the paschal mystery of Christ. This is the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. It is not a check-box, and it is not a once-and-done. We have been given a precious gift, and to be mature in faith we must take this seriously. Be blessed.