Rooted in Jesus Christ and Sharing that Gift: 19th Sunday
19th Sunday: Rooted in Jesus Christ and Sharing that Gift
The readings we hear at Mass are meant not only to educate us in the faith but also to sustain us when we feel challenged by either our prevailing societal ethics, or lack thereof, or by specific difficulties that we face in trying to be faithful to Christ.
Christians in the United States, and in most western countries, are having to face the reality that our numbers continue to steadily decline, and society is no longer recognizably Christian in any meaningful sense.
There are many factors that have contributed to this decline – the materialism of a wealthy society, a widespread amnesia about our nation’s Christian roots, the prevailing incorrect view that religion is a private matter, the desire to be seen to be impartial in matters of religion and a consequent neglect of Christian doctrine in schools, a loss of respect for authority including religious authority, and an inertia on the part of many Christians when it comes to meeting the challenge posed by secularism. For this we are all to blame – from those who govern down to individual Christians.
As we begin school here at Saint Mary Catholic School this week, I am reminded that all children, of whatever faith, deserve a thorough education in our Judeo-Christian heritage if they are to understand our nation’s history and culture including our concept of human rights and duties to community. And in our Catholic schools, and parishes, priority must be given to formation in the faith and, especially active evangelization. Our school is a wonderful ministry of our parish deeply committed to a distinctively Catholic formation and evangelization, training our little disciples to go out and make other disciples.
We could also do with improving our public image. Going to church on Sunday can seem like self-indulgent piety to those unable to feed their own children. Christians are very active in helping the poor and the needy, which is great; however, faced with a growing gap between rich and poor, we could be more vocal in demanding social justice – employment opportunities for young people, affordable housing and wages that at least cover the cost of living.
In a previous age the promotion of Christianity would have been seen as part of the solution to social and moral ills.
When it comes to challenges in faith, the Jewish people have faced many challenges to their faith in their long history and the first reading from the book of Wisdom today reminds us of something that helped to sustain them. It says: “For in secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice and putting into effect with one accord the divine institution.”
That reminds me of my Catholic ancestors from the northern Netherlands who were forced to practice their faith in secret, and nevertheless felt confident that their personal fidelity would one day lead to a revival of the Catholic faith and make its way down to their descendants.
I thank God for my great grandfather and his ancestors who worshiped in secret. Without them I would not be Catholic. I pray I will never take their sacrifice for granted. Maybe you have a similar story. Did your ancestors sacrifice by worshiping in secret so that you would have the faith and keep it? Do we honor them by the way that we truly practice our faith? Are we passing our faith on to others like our ancestors did for us. That’s what we call evangelization, sharing the gift of our faith. How are you doing with evangelization??
The second reading reminds us that faith was Jewish before it was Christian. God’s constant care for his chosen people continues to inspire Christians today. Abraham’s faith predates even the Jewish tradition. Abraham’s faith in God was simple and sure. It was the honest response of a human soul to his Creator. It was as pure as the response of fallen humanity can be. God spoke to Abraham, and Abraham responded with obedience and trust.
Abraham is a powerful model of Christian faith because his whole life was lived as a pilgrimage. Even when he was in the promised land of Canaan, he recognized that this was not his true homeland, but only a sign of it. It points beyond itself – as all signs do – to the heavenly realm, life with God, for which every human being was created. As Saint Augustine once wrote: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you O God”.
Just as Abraham recognized that his faith made demands of him, we must accept the demands being made of us – above all the demand to witness to Jesus Christ by what we say and do, sharing the gift of our faith. The gospel is not just a reminder to act, but also a warning of the dangers of not acting on our faith. Much has been entrusted to us – in fact far more than was entrusted to Abraham.
Abraham may be the first to condemn us if we fail to witness to the truth that God has come to us in Jesus, to make his love for us visible and tangible.
Our society should be one in which human beings can truly flourish, and that is far more than can be achieved by subscribing to a transient secular philosophy or to a misplaced over confidence in the nation’s inherent greatness, let alone a vague optimism that the market will, in time, solve the only problems that really matter.
We need solid grounds for believing in ourselves and grounds for genuine, lasting hope. We can only truly believe in ourselves if we first believe in God and in what his Son has promised to those who love and obey him.
The gospel insists that we must be prepared, ready to greet the Lord when he comes again as Judge. Now is the time to perfect our response to his great love for us, the love which we see in his willingness to suffer and die as a man to save us from our individual and collective rebellion. For those who turn to Jesus Christ, there truly is no need to be afraid.
Those are all the things I want you to know today.
This is what I would like for you to do. Attend our parish mission. How deeply rooted are you really in your relationship with Jesus Christ? And how well are you sharing the gift of your faith with others? Our parish mission is designed to help you grow in those ways. Those who are rooted in their relationship with Christ, and live it out in the world, sharing the gift of our faith, have nothing to fear. Are you prepared to meet the Lord when he comes as Judge? We want to help you do just that. You can register today at saintmary.life. Go there and click on the image for the 99 to register.
Here is a brief video about that: