A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of middle and high school youth at a nearby parish. The youth were attentive and engaged and a delight to be with. I left feeling enriched by their presence and grateful for being a part of the gathering.
As is my custom, I always hit the same main points at my presentations but the stories I tell or the examples I give vary from presentation to presentation. This time a new theme came up-Faith vs Fear.
Even though this was the first time that I had used that verbiage to explain my point, I have tried (perhaps poorly) to make the point at most of my speaking engagements. You see, most people agree that we should take care of the environment, right? Regardless of your political views, regardless of your belief or unbelief in global warming, regardless of your love or hate for Al Gore, PETA, or Greenpeace; the idea that we shouldn’t waste or ruin our resources is hard to argue with.
But Green 4 God is about more than behaviors. It’s about perspective, motivation, and inspiration. As Catholics, of course we should be doing our best to help care for Creation. However, we shouldn’t be acting out of fear that the earth will collapse without our aid. There is a sort of implicit pride in that way of thinking as if we can be the saviors of the earth all on our own. Instead, our actions should be acts of faith. Acting out of faith means that panic and fear don’t have control over us. Concern and conscientiousness replace fear and panic. Our sense of responsibility comes from the knowledge that God gave us a job that should be taken seriously but that He is also helping us along the way.
When I was in college, I briefly dated an atheist. He was a very kind man with a strong social conscience. It took me a while (not too long, we only dated for two months!) to realize that there was a big distinction between him and me. The difference was hope. Obviously, faith was a big difference between us but hope was a manifestation of our faith. Whereas he had no hope for the future, no sense that things would get better and no belief that there might be something better ahead of him than life on earth, I had a deep sense of hope that things would get better; that it wasn’t up to me alone to solve the world’s problems; and that a perfect life on earth wasn’t the best that we had to look forward to. So, though we both believed in helping the poor and vulnerable and caring for the earth, his motivation was out of fear and mine was out of faith.
I realize that this distinction may not be significant to some people. They may not care what someones motivation is as long as they’re doing the right thing. But, I would counter their point with two quotes from Scripture that are often used in opposition to the other, “What good is it my brothers if someone has faith but does not have works.” (James 2:14) and “If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)
These two Scripture verses tell us that it is both important to have faith and to put that faith into action. You can’t have faith and not have that faith reflected in your life. Nor can you do good works without love.
I wish you all a life of active faith absent of fear but full of love.