The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Believing, belonging, building

“Use your most holy faith as your foundation
and build on that, praying in the Holy Spirit.”

Jude 1:20

Sunday, August 26, 2012
21th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B

Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Ephesians 5:21-32
John 6:60-69

Love is not a feeling. It certainly involves feelings, but ultimately it must go much deeper. More than anything else, love is a decision. True love is not always pleasant or easy, but it is always fulfilling because in demanding total giving of self, paradoxically it delivers genuine self-realization. It is other-directed, but self-discovering, in that order. Love is a manifestation of the self-giving of the God of Love, who exhaled his own divine breath of life into us, and later, in the person of Christ, exhaled his last human breath to give us eternal life despite all our wrongdoing and ingratitude.
Faith is similar. It is not a feeling, though at times it may involve feelings. Ultimately, it is a commitment: “To believe is to commit one’s whole life, not because one is sure of oneself, but because one is sure of the other” (Days of the Lord, Vol. 5, p.195). It doesn’t mean seeing or knowing everything, but believing in the One who does, and who leads us just as the ancient Israelites were led out of slavery and across the desert to the Promised Land. Faith, like love, is a relationship of trust that seeks the good that is not always self-evident. Faith is, as the celebrated declaration in the Letter to the Hebrews says, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Culminating with the Incarnation, God gradually manifested himself on Earth (the manna in the desert, Jesus’ feeding of 5,000 people with a few barley loves, the Eucharist, etc.). He became one with our human nature, but sometimes (likely most times) all we can see is the earthly reality. That’s OK. Faith asks us nevertheless to trust in the divine presence of self-giving in our relationship with God and with one another—to believe in what is said because of who has said it: “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35); “This is my beloved son. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7).

Faith is a free choice to profess one’s belonging to One greater than oneself, to regularly renew our individual and collective commitment of belonging to God. The ancient Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, did this upon entering the Promised Land, and we do this at every Eucharist under the leadership of Jesus (Joshua and Jesus are different forms of the same name in Hebrew).

Today’s readings, each in their own way, revolve around the idea of commitment, and as Christians, we do well to meditate on what that truly means in terms of our relationship with God and with one another. How has God manifested himself to us? What does it mean for us today? The readings today offer some worthy points of reflection in this regard. Among them:

Decide today whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

Do you also want to leave?” John 6:67.

In the Gospel, of course, Peter gives the perfect response: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

As we know, Peter, first and foremost among the apostles and the rock upon which the Church is built, did not always live that response perfectly—even after this conversation in John’s Gospel. That should give us all hope. By the grace and mercy of God, to paraphrase St. Anthony the Great, each day we begin again, deciding whom we will serve.

Let us each day choose to taste and see that the Lord is good, and commit to building up one another in the love of Christ.

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