Monday, February 24, 2014

Help My Unbelief

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.  James 3:17-18

Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”  Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”  Mark 9:23-24

Help my unbelief.  All around me are example of hypocrisy.  Help me to ignore what others may or may not do and just be concerned with what I do and how I make our church a poor church for the poor. 

Just last Friday, on these very virtual pages, Melanie Rigney’s “Faith Without Works is Dead” was the last word on the faith v works debate.  Or so I thought.  Turns out it was the latest.  Until today that is when our itinerant carpenter from Nazareth declares, “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Everything?  Possible? 

Jesus must not hear the kind of “comfort-the-comfortable” preaching in American pulpits.  For example, the Good News says it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  Fortunately, the priest or deacon can take that as the cue to say that’s not really what it means literally.  The rich man just needs to give to the church to get into heaven.  Works prevail. Imagine if Jesus were in the pews.  Do you think he would stand up to object and speak in absolutes like he did in today’s reading?

Everything!  Possible!  Everything is possible to one who has faith.  Even to get a camel to pass through the eye of the needle.  Even to get a rich man into heaven.  Even to cure this boy of the demons who possess him. Possible?  Yes.  Then Jesus gets up and shows us how work is done by His faith.

We do not have to look too far for examples of how people can get easily distracted from what this debate really means and why it really matters.  In one homily last year, Pope Francis told priests to practice what they preach, saying the church's credibility was on the line.  Pope Francis said ordinary Catholics need to "see in our actions what they hear from our lips."

Francis has made himself an example of a more humble and frugal church by refusing many of the trappings of the papacy, living in the Vatican hotel rather than the Apostolic Palace and wearing a simple white cassock of the papacy rather than fancy vestments and capes for formal occasions that his predecessors wore.

"Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the church's credibility," he said.

How can we be more consistent in our faith today? Everything is possible if we can.

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