One of the cultural challenges we face in both living and proclaiming the faith is that the true faith often doesn’t fit our frantic pace or our expectation of instantaneous results. Consider that many today, including those of us who believe, demand the “quick fix.” Whatever the situation—be it sickness, the needed repair of something we own, the delivery of something we’ve purchased, a resolution of family troubles, or even deeper issues such as inner peace—we want it fixed right now.
But many things do not lend themselves to a quick fix, especially the deeper matters of the human soul. And the faith we proclaim does not suggest that it is so simple. In this sense the faith is less “marketable” to our quick-fix culture. We do not (and cannot) say, “Just come to Mass for six sequential Sundays and your problems will be over.” Rather, we say, “Give your life to Christ.”
The solution of God and of the true faith insists on an often slow but steady movement toward God, wherein He draws us in stages ever deeper to Him, to holiness, to perfection. Little by little our fears fade and our sins diminish; we become more loving, patient, compassionate, chaste, serene, and so forth. The process usually takes decades—no quick fixes here.
And many medicines need to be consistently applied: daily prayer, daily Scripture and spiritual reading, weekly Mass and Communion, frequent confession, and communal life in the Church including helpful friendships, faith-filled relationships, and works of charity.
There is an old saying, “Grace builds on nature.” That is to say, God’s grace respects the way we are made by Him. And just as it pertains to our physical nature to change slowly (but surely) and almost imperceptibly, our spiritual nature follows the same pattern. And while there may be “growth spurts,” it is more often the subtle and steady growth that makes the deepest difference.
I can surely say this has been my experience. I have been serious about my spiritual life for the last 30 of my 53 years—daily Mass, daily Scripture, daily holy hour, weekly confession, fellowship with my people, holy friendships, and spiritual direction. And wow, what a change! But it has taken me 30 years to get here, and most of my growth was imperceptible from day to day. I’m not what I want to be, but I’m not what I used to be; a wonderful change has come over me.
Not the quick fix, not the fast rush, just “a inching along like a poor inchworm” (as an old Spiritual says). But praise God I am where I am today.
Lifelong plans may not “sell,” but they are the way God insists on working.
On Fridays, I often try to keep the post a little shorter and I frequently use a commercial to make my point. So how about this one:
- In the commercial below there is a man named Jerry who is in a “state of regret.” In a certain sense (as we shall see) Jerry represents all who stray from the Church and God’s lifelong plan of faith—looking for a fast rush and a quick fix elsewhere, apart from the faith and the Church.
- Sure enough, Jerry’s regret is that he dropped his State Farm Insurance and went with “the other company.” Let’s call that company “Quick Fix Auto Insurance.” In allowing State Farm to represent the Church, I intend no endorsement, but I do note that “farming” is no quick-fix business; it involves a lot of patient waiting and persistent working. Such is the work of the Lord and His Church—no quick fix, it’s more like farming.
- Jerry complains to his former agent, “Jessica” (but let’s call her “Mother Church”). His complaint is “It only took me 15 minutes to sign with that other company but it’s taking a lot longer to hear back.” OK, so now he’s learned that there really is NO SUCH THING as a “quick fix” when it comes to many matters. And so must we learn this same truth. The world, the flesh, and the devil often make such promises and sow seeds of impatience in us when God does not act immediately, when the Church bids us to be patient and persistent. But now Jerry’s impatience has brought him further troubles, as we shall see.
- Jerry explains that he’s had a “fender bender.” The truth is that Jerry has bent far more than a fender; he is in real trouble. We too often like to minimize our sorry state when we’ve made bad decisions.
- Jessica (Mother Church) is sympathetic but wonders what she can do, since Jerry has ended his relationship with her. Without a relationship, how can she help him? Mother Church often wants to help us but must have a relationship with us in order to be able to help. God, too, seeks communion with us in order to help us. But communion, a relationship with the Lord and his Bride the Church, is necessary for help to be extended.
- Indeed Jessica (Mother Church) knows Jerry well and she seems, like a mother, to intuit exactly what he has done. She knows he’s in real trouble and has “put his car up a pole” (again). There’s just something about Mother Church; she knows her children and what we do; she knows and understands.
- Upon hearing Jessica’s (Mother Church’s) knowing but compassionate words, Jerry breaks down and says, “I miss you, Jessica!” The ad then says, “Let it out Jerry! Then come back to State Farm.” Yes, indeed. And so too for us. Soulful and tearful repentance and the restoration of our relationship with the Lord and His Church are the way out.
- Quick Fix Insurance Company can’t cut the deal. Come back to the Lord and His Church. The solution may not be “quick” but it will be sure if we stay the course.