When Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962, he addressed the bishops of the world with these words, “We are not here to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life. It is not a stuffy hold-over from another age. It is rather a living organism, a body whose head is Jesus and his life and blood the Holy Spirit.”

Fast forward to 50 years … let’s take a stroll through that garden of Faith which Pope John XXIII spoke about half a century ago. Is it flourishing or has it turned into a museum only to be visited once a week as our Sunday obligation or has it been lulled to sleep by a false sense of security in a society where materialism often takes precedence over spirituality?

As Catholics, we are certainly living in a challenging environment and one can easily sense the rapid increase of secularism, particularly within the Church concerning attitudes pertaining to faith practice, the Eucharist and the sacramental life. There has also been a great loss of authentic Catholic spirituality, a decline in participation in the Mass and sacraments, and a serious separation of one’s perceived Catholic faith and the living of their everyday life. Many fill their lives with everything but God and it’s not so much that they no longer believe in God, but they have in effect, crowded God out.

In the midst of our pursuit of ‘worldly pleasures’, we fail to realise how fortunate we really are. Our Catholic faith is firmly rooted in a sturdy foundation that dates back more than 2,000 years ago and it is one that is privileged to have had a covenant between God and His people through Adam, Abraham, Moses and the prophets. Our God is a loving and compassionate God, a God who sacrificed His only Son for our sake. Our Faith teaches us about forgiveness and offers forgiveness to us sinners through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We have the gift of the Eucharist which was given to us by Christ Himself – the Eucharist that nourishes our body and soul with everlasting life.

But how many of us are actually appreciative of these sacramental treasures that have been entrusted to us through baptism? How often have we taken our Faith for granted? Are we willing to commit ourselves to a life that will identify us as disciples of Christ?

The Year of Faith is a unique and crucial moment of grace in the life of the Church. It is a time of hope in a world that is very much shrouded in darkness and confusion. It is a great moment of faith for the Church, and a time to look back and see that, even in these great challenging times of the last 50 years, how grace has abounded in such incredible gifts as the Second Vatican Council, the great pontificate of Blessed John Paul II, the richness of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the dawn of a new evangelisation.

The Year of Faith is a time for us to ‘Awaken’, ‘Discover’ and ‘Inspire’.  To Awaken calls us to enliven the faith we have gratuitously been given. To Discover invites us to grow in our understanding of what the Church teaches and to Inspire challenges us to witness our faith in such a way that others are drawn to Christ.