Elements of Being Catholic
“Earth, fire, water, air.” The eponymous show, Avatar: The Last Airbender, begins with these words. Just as the protagonists draw strength from these elements, so do we, as Catholics, draw from various spiritual gifts to help us grow in relationship with God. These are Prayer, Faith, Works, Hope and Love. With these “elements,” Catholics can see the world through a whole new lens. All these elements are like building materials that lead us to Christ and to our ultimate destiny.
Prayer is an appeal to God; it can also be called a conversation that we have with God. Through prayer, God hears our hearts, worries and dreams. Prayer allows us to be human. It allows us to hear our own dreams while professing them to God. When we pray deeply, sincerely, and continuously, we develop the mentality of Christ. A mind that is not self-centred but one of imagination. One that wills the continued connection between all humanity and God, which is a part of our faith.
Faith for us Catholics can sometimes be described as the “root.” Faith is our belief in something greater than us; it is one of the first “rocks” laid in our development as Catholics. When we are young, we are first introduced to having faith in some things, like the belief that there is a god. It is one of the easier aspects of our Catholic lives to develop. In prayer, many of us as kids could not sit still long enough to finish an Our Father, let alone sit through Mass. Once again, faith is our root; faith is that which leads us to Christ, and for many of us, it is the most powerful “building material” we have. When all else fails us in life, faith is the last line of defence. It keeps us going and helps keep us truly alive. Faith is one way to express trust in God, making our Catholic beliefs and ideals truly universal because they are centred in Christ. We come from many different backgrounds, but we profess one faith, one God, and one spirit in Christ.
In a religious context, ‘works’ refer to serving others, while working hard can be defined as only working for ourselves. When we give something in the name of God, we feel ecstatic because we are showing the loving nature of God through our simple actions. When I volunteer at Church, I am not called to perform my actions for fame or glory but because that simple act is for the greater glory of God. Our Lord Christ Jesus performed simple actions that spoke huge volumes. The actions we do for our brothers and sisters do not go unnoticed. They add to our spiritual development and those who yearn to repent from their sinful lives.
Hope is perhaps the most optimistic “element” because it allows us to raise our heads after falling and see the light again. Imagine you are walking and looking at a light post in the distance with a shining bright light. Then, you trip on a rock and fall. From a theological perspective, falling refers to sinning. Having hope that we can overcome this sin through Jesus Christ is so important because the light we were looking at before is worth looking at again, rather than looking at the cold ground all night. Hope is not meant to be a core building material. It is meant to be used with the other elements to help us in our daily life, walking with Christ. It is meant to help us come back to Christ alongside the other elements when we fall. But all the other elements lead us to the core element. The most sturdy and powerful, which hope pushes us to see: love.
“God is love” (John 4:16). Love is the accumulation of every element we have, and then some. In every aspect of our lives, love must be the encompassing element. We must do all actions in the name of the love of God and people. Christ mentions this when discussing the culmination of the commandments: that we love God and each other. Loving others despite our differences is a fundamental call of Christians. We can think of love as constructing a bridge. Love constitutes the materials needed for the bridge’s support, which is essential to the bridge; indeed, there is no bridge without the support. Love is the element that holds all of the Catholic identity within the person and binds the human to the spirit. Love is the result of prayer. Love is the result of hard work. Love is the fulfillment of our hopes. Love is love; it is the one thing that never disappears even when others take everything away from us.
The “Catholic elements” are perhaps the basics that we need to become better in the name of Christ. When we think of the image of creating a bridge, we think of the materials we would need in order to create that bridge. So likewise, when building our bridge to Heaven, to Christ, we use prayer, faith, works, hope, and love so that we can fulfill our duties on earth, striving to rise from the ashes of despair with each passing day through God’s grace. Amen.