This video is brought to us by Blimey cow, a parody vlog of “mockumentaries” whose cross-examination of teen and Christian stereotypes presents a critical but comically entertaining evaluation of North American culture. Although the makers of this vlog aren’t Catholic, several of their themes examine a common experience we face – that of trying to form and apply adequate criteria of judgment to our lives in an aggressively anti-Christian culture. The subject of today’s reflection is: Upon what do we base our faith life?

In our day and age, massive youth conferences, the praise and worship music boom, and an overly euphoric expressivity have become practically a paradigm for the ‘faith experience’, especially among youth. While these might legitimately have their place, there is a danger that their effect may wander from opening the depth and richness of the mysteries of the faith, to merely exciting the experience of “positive” emotions. A problem arises when there is ambiguity between the desire for God and the desire for the “God-feeling”.

The so-called “spiritual high” or “emotional faith-experience” seems to have bridged an association between the ideas of ‘feeling good’ and ‘feeling God’. Now, of course it is normal to experience positive emotions towards God, and these can serve to strengthen our perseverance in difficult and dry moments, but sometimes our reasoning turns them into something like: “faith-feeling = God’s presence”, and by process of elimination: “no faith-feeling = God’s absence”. In reality, God is just as close to us and just as ready to help us regardless of how we feel.

God is more than your spiritual highs and lows

God is not a feeling. Faith is not a feeling. And furthermore, a solid faith-life is made up of contradicting feelings that go together! Suffering-joy, trusting-fear, uplifting-sadness (as contrition or compassion) just to name a few. The true “God-feelings” are found in the Gospel, in the example of Jesus’ life. But perhaps more important than asking what Jesus felt, is understanding what He does as a result. He teaches us that faith has a dual character. On one hand, it is the perfect gift we receive from God (for which we do depend upon grace), but on the other hand, faith is our effective response to that gift. For that reason, the quality of our faith depends not upon His giving, but upon the quality of our giving, our cooperation with grace.

If we treat faith as mere consumers, only seeking to satisfy the desired emotion, then our ‘faithfulness’ will depend sadly upon how our surrounding circumstances make us feel. Would we depend more on what emotions we can associate to God than upon what decisions we need to take in order to live more for God? Living a feeling-ruled faith according to the rules of consumerism, subjectivism, individualism and passion-centered impulsivity only makes us play by the world’s rules anyway.

One final thought. We cannot be passive before the bombardment of today’s anti-culture. A passive or indifferent attitude that places a disproportionate emphasis on “waiting for God to move”, and which furthermore expects it to come wrapped in warm fuzzies, will not be sufficient to overcome the negative influences of the world. In the end, a ‘moody’ faith really has nothing to do with Christ’s love. God’s love is not a Band-Aid. It is a call to get involved, to respond with conversion, generosity, with actions that are bigger than whatever we may be feeling at the moment. Oftentimes the biggest blessings we can give come wrapped in a crown of thorns for us, though we discover by them that true love is forged in sacrifice.

Questions for dialogue

1. Do you identify yourself as a seeker of the “God-feeling”/spiritual high? What advice might you give to someone whose faith life might be overly dependent on feelings?

2. What am I supposed to do/think when I feel far from God? Why do you feel far from God? (Examination of conscience) Identify the opportunities God puts in your path daily to be nearer to Him.

3. How much do my feelings affect (or even determine) my spiritual life? To what extent should they? (feelings are important but they aren’t everything) Do I tend not to make the changes I need to because I’m afraid of how I might feel? How other’s might make me feel? Because I don’t know what I will feel?

4. Do I do good only when I’m feeling good? Or am I able to do good even when I don’t feel like it? Find concrete opportunities/examples in Jesus’ life (tired, misunderstood, enemies, pain, …etc) and in your own life.