Pathways to Faith
When did I first know that God loves me? It was probably when I was still very small. Maybe a parent or grandparent or perhaps a teacher first told me. But God’s love is so much more than just hearing the words. It is a feeling, an emotion, a sensation, a conviction. It is heart rather than head, more gradual than instant.
Most of the steps along our journey of faith were taken long before we were born. They are the steps trodden by those who by their lives carried the Gospel message from the days of Christ right down to our own time. Every generation, each life of faith is a link in a chain that connects our hearts to the living, loving Lord.
There are two formal, sacred moments when we are carried into church by those who love us. The first is when we are little as our parents carry us in their arms to the baptismal font. At the end of our lives, the situation is often reversed when children carry their parent on their shoulders to spend their last night in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Both processions are acts of love. We didn’t ask to be baptised, just as we didn’t ask to be born. It happened because there were people who loved us and wanted us to share that which they treasured most. Baptism is the sacrament of sharing that which we value most, our faith, with those whom we love most, our children.
Life is the greatest gift which in turn is blessed and enriched by baptism. As the christening water is poured three times over our head in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit we become a sister or brother of Christ and those who love him. We now have a friend who will be with us every moment of our lives, a light to illuminate our path, a shield to protect us, hope that will never fail us, a saviour to welcome us into eternity. Having received so much love we are enabled to live lives of love. Our world becomes larger. We look upwards towards the Lord and outwards towards each other. We become part of something truly majestic, a family of faith founded on the Lord.
Baptism is a point of departure along the road of loving Christ. It is a big step taken by tiny feet nourished by a lot of love. That love grows stronger with each little step. When we receive Holy Communion for the first time, we are not carried into the Church but rather guided by loving parents as they hold our hand. Baptism happens but once. It is the gateway to following Christ. Eucharist accompanies us during all our life. It is food for the journey. It is an extraordinary belief that Christ is truly present in a fragment of bread, a drop of wine and thereby becomes part of what we are. Christ in Holy Communion takes us by the hand and walks with us.
The third big step towards embracing God’s love is confirmation, the sacrament of becoming an adult. This time nobody carries us into Church or holds our hand. We do it ourselves. The promises made on our behalf at baptism now become our own. In confirmation we take ownership of all the faith, hope and love that passed through our parents and all who went before them right back to the days when Christ walked among us.
Baptism, first holy communion, confirmation are the public, sacramental steps along the pathway of God’s love. There are a great many other steps towards maturity as a Christian. Every word or act of kindness, generosity, patience, justice, forgiveness or love are all steps along the road that Christ walks with us towards life eternal. There are three formal steps in addition to millions of small steps taken with Christ and towards Christ. The public steps are the same for each of us, but the other steps are different for each person. Every day presents its own opportunities to live God’s love, to walk with him. A helping hand, a prayer offered, a tear shed, a smile gifted all fortify and make real the blessings we receive in baptism, confirmation and Holy Communion.
Each time we enter a Church we bless ourselves as we make the sign of the cross in the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Soon we look forward to being able to do so once again with holy water recalling what happened on the day of our baptism. Reliving that gesture in the bits and pieces of our daily lives we walk with Christ towards life and love that never ends.
Fr. Albert McDonnell
Radharc na nOileán Pastoral Area.
Clare Champion article 28th of January 2022