Aha has observed and drawn a conclusion: When people don’t place God in the center of their lives, they will easily get into conflicts, quarrels, jealousy, fighting, abuse, hatred, etc. In other words, brokenness derives quite a bit from the lack of faith. People cannot live fully without faith. Aware of this fact, he has held the matter of faith seriously and with much appreciation. He is proud of his religious belief.
Some time ago, a classmate of his asked him a question that disturbed him a great deal: “Do you truly believe in God?”
Aha was surprised, then upset. Such an unnecessary and insulting question to his pious religious practice! Though he was a hot tempered person, for some reason he did not react as usual. Usually he would throw the question back to his friend, saying: “Why are you asking me such an insulting question? Don’t you see I spend a lot of time in religious activities?…” But at that moment he smiled, unnaturally because of being embarrassed. From then on, he began to reflect on why this friend of his asked such a question.
Then on a Sunday, Aha went to Mass. While contemplating this question, he was startled by the readings [of the Word of God] that day. It was as if they were speaking specifically to him. The Gospel reported the story in which Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?” They gave him different answers. He then asked them: “But who do you say that I am?” Upon hearing this question, Aha was struck and felt invited to examine his relationship with The Teacher, Jesus. No one could do this for him. Would the question of his friend have anything to do with that of The Teacher? He began to examine his conscience.
Examining his conscience was an interesting and beneficial thing to do since it helped him recognize his own faults and failings as follows:
He went to Mass often but he did not often care about others around him. He could skillfully and endlessly weave his speech with beautiful words and yet he was not sensitive to others’ feelings. He was proud of having faith in God and yet he allowed himself to be shaken when difficulties appeared. He appreciated the blessings he received from God but was jealous of those who were luckier than him. He was moved each time he was forgiven by God but it was hard for him to forgive others. He said that he always had God as his companion but he still had superstitious beliefs. He acknowledged the compassion and mercy of God for himself but his behavior still showed a lack of compassion and mercy for others. He treasured the unconditional love of God for himself but his love for others was quite conditional, more asking than giving. He took part in different activities as service to people so that they were impressed by him, but his service seemed to come from a need for fame that was geared towards creating a sense of security for his own psyche. He held that freedom was a noble gift God gave us humans so that we could love truly and yet he often wanted to control the lives of others. He said that he trusted God’s loving providence but he often complained about things. He believed that God was always compassionate with everyone, and yet he was harsh on others and on himself. His faith taught him that he was nobly created in the image of God, and yet he still held a low self-esteem… There were other things that Aha recognized about himself during his examination of conscience.
“Do you truly believe in God?” was the question asked by his friend that made him feel upset and made him think. “Who do you say that I am?” is the question asked by The Teacher that helped him focus on the heart of everything and find the answer. Now he has seen the reason why his friend asked him the question. He has understood that action needs to be compatible with the spirit of faith, that faith needs to be clarified by action. He has found the comment of one of Jesus’ disciples – James – logical when he writes: “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” (James 2: 17-18) But most importantly, now he understands more clearly his relationship with The Teacher – Jesus – and knows how to act so that next time, when people witness the way he leads his life, they will say: “I know you truly believe in God!”
Contemplating the life of The Teacher, Jesus, a life spent fully showing unconditional love, Aha is determined to practice better His commandment: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.