- Homily from last Sunday is in the library ->
- The Scriptures for this Sunday are at usccb.org ->
- I am preaching at the 5:30pm on Saturday and 9:30am on Sunday
Just when I thought I didn't have anything more to say about faith, it appears God does. While last week's discussion about the nature of being faithful (remember the battle), this week's insight has to do with how one ought to think about the practice of the faith.
St. Paul's letter to Timothy is a beautiful reflection upon the state of his faith and the role or purpose that faith. He says, "I have kept the faith". He realizes that being faithful, running the race, fighting the fight of faith has resulted in himself being given away for the sake of God. "I am being poured out like a libation. What do you think your faith is suppose to be accomplishing in you?That question is answered in the Gospel text.
The pharisee in the gospel is a good religious man, he has done the good and honorable religious thing, but he has not allowed faith to accomplish its purpose - keeping him in communion with God. In contrast, the publican/tax collector is a bad guy, he does bad and terrible, sinful things. However Jesus endorses the tax collector because he is allowing faith to accomplish its purpose in his life - moving him into deeper communion with God. The purpose of believing is to be in communion with God.
I use the expression "cling to the hand of God" as my understanding of faith. It is the flip side of Jesus' promise to "be with you always." Faith, believing for me, is my being with God always...like that little kid walking down the street with his mom or dad...almost unconsciously clinging to that safe hand.
On the weekend of my ordination as a priest the church was celebrating the Baptism of the Lord. The reading from the prophet Isaiah said, "I the Lord have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand." I took that as the "motto" of my first Mass celebration (holy cards, etc). It is an image or a concept that has become much more important for me as I have grown into my faith and my priestly life....to be grasped by the hand of God. I love that. I live that (some of the time) and I preach that to others.
The danger with religion and religious people is that we become forgetful rather than faithful. We begin to see the practice of the faith as something we have done....as if it is about us. That's the pharisee. Sadly, in these cases our practice of the faith becomes the obstacle to "being full of faith". It's hard to see but it is deadly indeed. Self-satisfied feelings (Good thing I am not like other people) rather than God-appreciating thoughts (Lord, have mercy on me a sinner) is the danger of religion. The first separates us from God's loving embrace - the second draws us in.
Is faith accomplishing its purpose in you, namely, to keep your hand safely in the palm of God's hand? Or is your religious life and practice pulling your hand away from God's and pating you on the back? Dangerous Religion!