19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)
When people find out I am a college campus minister, they often say something like, “Your job must be difficult with so many students loosing their faith in college.” The comment always calls to mind something a priest told me once. “I’ve never met anyone who lost their faith in college,” he said, “but I’ve met lots of people who lost their faith growing up at home and college was the first time they had to exercise that option.”
It’s true. If you are a faithful student embarking on your college career, you don’t need to worry about “loosing” your faith, as if it might get misplaced or stolen away from you. You just have to be faithful. But what does that mean?
The readings this Sunday describe faith as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Jesus asks in his parable, “Who is the faithful and prudent servant?” (Lk 12:42).
Faith is one of the theological virtues (along with hope and love). It is a gift from God that enables us to believe in supernatural truths. As a grace, faith is something we receive. But there is another aspect of faith. Faith is also something that we do.
Faith is something given to us by God, but it’s also something God wants us to give him in return. Like any relationship, faith is a two way street that requires commitment and trust.
Spouses are expected to be faithful to one another in marriage. Boyfriends and girlfriends in committed, exclusive relationships also expect one another to be faithful. This means no cheating on your significant other! And everyone knows that being faithful is about more than just not getting caught. If a husband commits adultery on his wife, he is unfaithful whether or not his wife ever finds out. Being faithful means honoring your commitments even (especially) when no one is looking. As Joseph Conrad said, “Character is what you are in the dark.”
Challenges & Opportunities
As you prepare to leave for college — some of you for the first time — you can expect to have many opportunities to be faithful. No one will be looking over your shoulder to make sure you behave. College is a time of exploration but it’s also a time of maturation. One sure sign of maturity is the ability to honor a commitment — in other words, being faithful.
Some of you may have boyfriends or girlfriends back home. They expect you to be faithful even though you may be hundreds of miles away. How faithful would you be if you sent your sweetheart an “I love you” text every morning, but went on dates with other people every evening?
You will have academic expectations. Your professors will expect you not only to come to class, but to do the work they assign you and study diligently. How faithful would you be to your studies if you came to class but never cracked open a textbook or bothered to check the syllabus?
Likewise, college also provides an opportunity for you to be faithful to God. Your parents won’t be around to see that you go to Mass on Sunday. That will be entirely up to you. But just as being a faithful student is about more than attending class, being a faithful Christian is about more than attending Mass. Will you be faithful to God when no one is looking?
Will you be faithful when you are tempted to sleep in rather than go to class? Will you be faithful when someone hands you a red Solo cup full of alcohol even though you are underage? Will you be faithful when you see someone at a party who has had too much to drink doing things you know they would never do (or allow to be done to them) when sober? Will you be faithful when your beliefs are challenged by others? Will you be faithful even when you feel too busy to pray?
As a college student you will face these decisions and more every week. You can see them as frustrations, or you can see them as opportunities to be faithful.
You will experience tremendous growth in college. So it’s very important to ask what sort of person do you want to be? Do you want to be a faithful person? The only way to become one is by being one — by making choices every day to honor your commitments to your professors, your family, your friends and most importantly to God.
Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Lk 12:34). As we approach the start of a new academic year, ask yourself what sort of treasure you want to gain during your time on campus. If the treasure you want is holiness, sanctity, virtue, goodness and love — all the things of God — then Catholic Campus Ministry is here to help you.
All you need to do is be faithful.