Disclaimer: I know I am not in the position t talk about this but I just wanted share my thoughts about the difference of Faith and Religion, that I know.
Today is Holy Tuesday, part of the Holy Week, so I guess this is the best time to talk about this delicate topic. I am not discussing this to cause fury or debate, rather I just wanted to share my thoughts about Faith and Religion. Actually there have been big differences and misconceptions about the two. Some usually think that if they become religious, they become faithful automatically, same as in becoming faithful they become immediately religious. That’s not the case. These two are very different, and I can say, is not related with each other. They are two separate things and doing the first one doesn’t mean you become the other one as well. But this is what I know, these are two things that a man should not live without.
In general, religion is a compilation or collection of beliefs, traditions, views and culture that depict spirituality, values and of course the origin of life. Some religions I know are Catholic Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism. For me, what I learned about religion as I was growing up is something that guides you. My mom usually brings us to church every Sunday when I was young, she also made sure that we pray before we sleep. At school, we always pray before eating meals. They also had events at school like First Communion, Mass of the Holy Rosary, Celebration of Virgin Mary’s Birthday and so on. There was at one point that I was asking myself why are we doing these celebrations and traditions in the first place. I got more interested in knowing more when our maid during our childhood told me that signing of the Cross during prayer is not necessary, then she told me that her religion was or that she was a member of Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path). That was the turning point, I had the need to know why we are doing such practices without even telling us why these things are being done. Come Holy Week, my friends told me that we shouldn’t eat pork since we should fast. We would also see in TV that some people bring to life the crucifixion, men being crucified at a wooden cross, depicting Christ’s death. I actually grew scared watching those events every year during Holy Week. I kept on telling myself, if our religion is our guide, then why do these things if we can just follow prayers and commands that the Church will be giving to us? People on the TV said this is their form of being religious and faithful to God. I was disturbed, I knew that doing such is not being faithful.
I believe that yes, you can be religious but being one doesn’t necessarily mean you are faithful. You can say that you are religious but how sure are you that you are showing faithfulness? Sometimes, we forget why we are doing such traditions, I would just notice that we are doing these practices just for the sake of doing it, without any objectives. For example, why do you pray the rosary? Is is because your grandmother told you so? Or is it because you wanted something good to happen in your life? Well, if those are your reasons, it is not necessary to pray the rosary in the first place. Why do you even attend Sunday Masses? Just for the sake to show people you are religious? Or maybe just to go out of the house? Or maybe just to see someone at church? If these are you reasons, then stop going to church. Ask yourself, do you even like praying the rosary? Do you even understand the homily every mass that you attend? What is your goal for doing Visita Iglesia, or by visiting seven churches every holy week? Is it necessary to crucify yourself as well? Should we be amazed if the images of saints cry blood? I don’t have a say for other religions, but for Catholic Christians, I want you to know, we have our God. In everything that you do, your main purpose should be to show that you love God. It’s like you love someone and you should love what you are doing. It should not be a practice rather an intimate activity where you and God talk or interact, it’s not something that you are showing off rather it is something that you personally do for God. Also, Christ has died for us, it’s not necessary to re-crucify someone for the sake of calling God’s attention. God will be with you as you put your heart in what you are doing and by then you can call yourself Faithful.
Usually faith is considered to be similar to hope, trust, even religion. Mostly it is something you are holding on to without proof. That’s correct, but faith can not be in a same note as to hope, trust and religion, because for me, Faith is believing what your heart desires and doing your best to hold on to it without any hesitation, and doing it by heart. In religion, most people do traditions and practices to show faithfulness, but as i see it they are doing it for the sake of doing it. Why do it for a certain period if you can actually do it everyday for the rest of your life? Faith should not be measured on what you did, but you can say you are faithful if you are living your life to glorify God. Yes you may be religiously following the church and doing all the necessary practices to be religious, but are you sure you are doing it the right way? You might be praying but what are the components of your prayers? You might be going to church but did you learn something new? You might fast, but what was your purpose? You might be reading the bible but did you have any reflections? I’d rather not do any of those at all and be true to myself and to God rather than do those things and fail to lift everything up to God.
I remember one quote I heard, “I don’t commit to God because when you commit you have to do something in return.”, that’s correct. Being faithful means committing yourself and doing something in return. But it is not faith without doing it by heart. You have to have that inspiration to do the things you have to do, and make sure to do it by heart, because without doing so, you are just doing it for the sake of finishing what you have started. Many people are afraid to commit that’s why they fail to see the true essence of faith and just choose to be religious and follow practices and tradition. It is not easy to commit to God because people experience that when they sacrifice for God, they do not immediately receive anything in return. But that’s not how faith works. You are faithful because you chose to be, and should not wait for something in return, other than doing it for God and be called the child of God. I remember in the Bible, the apostles left everything they had just to follow Christ, they did not ask Christ to give everything in return, all that Christ gave was His teachings that the apostles used to live by. And we should be like the apostles, just keep on following Christ. You don’t have to do any act to impress Him, just keep on following and when he commanded, follow, never hesitate. For me that is the essence of faith, and being faithful alone is enough to prove yourself worthy for the love of God.
I am not perfect. I am not completely faithful to God as well, I admit that. Many of you might get offended with what I wrote, but this is my opinion. I don’t see why we need to do traditions to show how much we love God. Bible reading and living on what you have learned is enough for me. Sharing God’s good news is also enough for me. I also don’t see any reason for different religions to be on debate and be against each other. We are living on a world full of traditions and I guess this should be the time to live harmoniously and stop selfish intents to promote their religion and be atop against the other. Let’s just live by our faith and not offend other beliefs. Being faithful starts in ourselves. Do your part. Live by the morals and values on what your religion has taught you. Don’t hurt others, instead pray and start changing for your beliefs and try to live your life full of hope and wisdom to become a better person, and influence others to live by faith, by then we can change this world and make it a better place. I respect every religion and it amazes me on how every religions keeps their people intact by their faith and beliefs.
I may not have the best description on what faith and religion are but what I wanted to share is that Holy Week is not the only time to be holy. Everyday should be kept holy and everyone should be holy everyday as well. It’s not necessary to follow traditions everyday to be faithful, but rather you just have to hold on to your faith and live your life for God and everything will fall into place. Faith is something you have to choose in your life. Living in faith is like walking in water, you have to believe you can because without so, you will drain and die. I am not saying that becoming faithful will save you, but becoming faithful and living life for God is. Just like in life, if you have something that you have been longing for, do your best, believe and be faithful that you will reach it. Don’t just stand there and be like everyone else, you have to stand out and show you deserve what you are aiming for. Always remember, never lose your passion to strengthen your faith, because being faithful is what keeps a man going, and without faith man is lifeless.