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Pastor's Letter 20210822 - 22 August 2021 - The Risk of Faith


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August 22nd, 2021

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

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  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise Him up on the last day.”

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:   “The Risk of Faith”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Life or death?  The decision seems an easy one, the choice quite obvious.  But the decision to choose life in the person of the Bread of Life is made possible only by a gift of faith from above (John.)  Once the challenge of faith has been met with faith, the believer is afforded the strength and support of the covenantal community (Joshua,) and the loving, reverential care of Christ, Himself (Ephesians.)  

…from P.D. Sanchez, “The Word We Celebrate, p.225”

In today’s First Reading, we find the very real importance of the covenant renewal ceremony (Joshua 24:1-18.)  This last chapter of Joshua serves as an epilogue to all that has preceded it (i.e. the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Old Testament.)   One description of the value of Joshua goes: “In Joshua and Judges, we have the monuments for the most primitive faith of Israel—both in the sense that it is early, and also that it is less developed.  The books should be read as the first stages in Israel’s religious adventure of faith….” (The two-edged Sword: Interpretation of the Old Testament, J.Mckenzie, 1965-2009, ibid.)

Our Second Reading can be summarized as a household “code” that mirrors that in vogue during the 1st century A.D. (Ephesians 5:21-32.)  Being “subject” should be heard as synonymous with “honoring,” in the case of relationships of wife/husband, child/parent, slave/master, younger/elder.  These codes were changed very little when they were adopted by the early Christians.  The author goes further to clarify, stating these relationships should mirror that found between Christ and the Church.  Thus the covenant between Christ and His ecclesial Body should be the primary source and inspiration for all other relationships.  

In today’s Gospel selection, we hear Jesus telling us, firmly, that He has come from heaven to earth, and some who hear Him will not believe (John 6:60-69.)  The declaration and the ultimatum of faith Jesus proffered required a decision of all who were in His company.  To become disciples, they were required to make a commitment in faith and a bond of mutual trust.  It is significant that same challenge, revelation and grace of spirit and faith were offered to all who witnessed Jesus’ words and works, and in turn, to all of us, today.  We must have a willing mind, and faithfully hear and be committed to hear the Word and partake of  the Bread of eternal life.

Personal Acceptance of Faith

People’s beliefs and convictions are almost always “second-hand,” in that they come from some outside authority, without examination.  This is especially true for most religious beliefs.  It is difficult to find a person who has acquired their beliefs by personal “proof.”  For most of us, who are “cradle Catholics,” this is particularly true.  

For those among us who actually “think” about our beliefs, from an existential point of view, it is as if we awoke one day and were shocked to find we are not “volunteers,” but have been “drafted” into our faith.  Having been baptized as infants, we have no memory of the event.  All through our growing years, religion has been “imposed” upon us by parents, the Church, and for many, our Catholic School “indoctrination.”  None of this has been resented or resisted in any way—it was, to put it simply, “normal life.”  

Some of us who have reconsidered our beliefs as adults, have made personal choices about them.  Like many others, I am such a person, inasmuch as I compared many similar, but distinctly different forms of worship. I concluded there was no more “complete” faith than that of the Catholic Church.  I found most Protestant creeds woefully vacant, when compared to the rich liturgy of the Holy Mass, and I dutifully continued in my role of a somewhat “devout” Catholic.  For me, the majority of my adult years in the faith were intertwined with the music of the Liturgy, and for more than 50-years, I was the director of several parish choirs and community chorales.  I found the depths of Scripture so beautifully expressed in the music of the great composers, and carried to the present day by creators of modern-day choral offerings.  

When I was exposed to the Old Catholic Church, I began to delve deeply into the roots of my faith, and concluded, happily, there was a place for me in the priesthood.  My doctoral studies in theology were broadly based in both sacred and secular texts, in addition to Holy Scripture.  I found, and continue to do so even today, that many commentaries not only expand my appreciation of the tenets of my beliefs, but are beautifully expressed in the lyrics of sacred choral music.  That is why I continue to utilize these recordings in my celebration of the Holy Mass.  The beauty and inspiration of the music reaches to my soul!  

It is no longer “enough” to simply be “born into” our faith. “Second-hand” faith considered “impoverished!”  It will not suffice for our needs in challenging times, such as those in which we find ourselves, today.  Assaults on our beliefs are brandished like weapons from all quarters and pervade social media, many presented as “truth.”  Things happen to us which cause us either to make our faith our own, and try to live it with some conviction, or to drift away from it.  For some the transformative experience may be quiet and undramatic.  For others, their beliefs are transformed by painful experiences such as addiction, or war experiences, or the loss of a loved one, etc.  

We need to make the faith our own.  We have to find meaning in it through personal experiences, if it is to come alive for us.  But we have to be clear what that word “faith” involves.  In the first place, it is not merely acceptance of a set of beliefs.  It is, rather, a belief in, and commitment to, the person of Jesus Christ!  

When Jesus saw many of His disciples leaving Him, He turned to His apostles and asked them, “Will you also leave Me?”  These words are addressed to us, too.  It’s not the Lord Who leaves us, but we who may leave Him.  “But why,” we may ask ourselves, “would we leave the Lord, Who alone has the words of eternal life?”  

We need to make Peter’s profession of faith our own.  For more and more people in the Church today, faith is no longer something they “inherited.”  It is not taken for granted, but it is the fruit of a personal decision.  They live as members of a community of believers whose common faith strengthens the faith of each individual.

The Lord, Himself, is the One Who strengthens our faith.  But we also need to confirm one another.  Our regular participation in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist can make both these things a reality.

May God Richly Bless You!

“A firm knowledge of religion, as distinguished from experience, seems but ‘chaff’ in moments of trial.”

~~Mahatma Ghandi.~~

To see a live stream of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/4VINQF028ZE

 

Blessed Is He.docx

Edited by Father Michael
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