Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Do not be afraid, just have Faith."

The greatest disease or suffering, the greatest privation for the human person, is to live without faith.

In the Gospel the Lord exercises His power as God to reverse the course of nature and to restore life and health to those suffering sickness in body. As wonderful as these stories of miraculous healing may be, as much as we delight to hear them retold in our Mass this morning and to imagine the wonder and joy of those who saw and experienced the Divine power of Christ the healer, there is yet something more we need to have. We need Faith.

Disease and death have power over us because they can cause us to be fearful. Fear takes away the goodness and joy of living; fear takes away our hope. The only power that can restore hope and joy is Faith – the grace of a God that who opens a future for us despite the existence of disease, suffering and death in this world. Faith opens up a way of trust and hope because it reveals for us that disease, suffering and death will not have the last word for us and for those we love.

This is the reason why Christ says “Do not be afraid, just have Faith.” Christ gives a command in the Gospel this morning that we do not find surprising because we have heard him say it before, he tells us, “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” Have you ever wanted to tell someone who says this, “Easy for you to say.” We are tempted to respond in this way when we think that the person who is speaking to us cannot share in or understand our condition. Are you tempted to think you might have said this, or wanted to say this, to Christ if you had been there that day to witness the events we hear about in the Gospel? “Just have faith”: little words that demand great things. But was it “easy” for Christ to say this? No, it was not. Christ in his human nature experienced everything that we experience except for sin. This means that Christ the God-man needed to have Faith in his Father in the same way as He asks us to exercise this virtue.

Christ teaches us with compassion that comes from fully sharing in our human condition as well as from His divine authority as God. “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” Christ can say these words in a truly compassionate and loving way because He does not say them merely with authority. He is not only the Teacher, the one who shares the truth about Faith with us. No, what is more, He Himself is Faith, the source of Faith for all of us whom He invites today to live a new kind of life, a different kind of life, a life without fear. What does it mean to “have Faith?” It means to “have Christ”; to “love” Christ. Christ invites us to possess Him, and in having Him, having also the antidote to the temptation of fear.

There are other diseases we do not hear about in the Gospel today: the fear brought by poverty, the fear of loneliness and of old age; the fear of what the future might bring; the fear of losing one’s job or one’s home. For a priest the promise to obey his bishop and to go wherever he is sent to serve God’s people might bring a temptation to be fearful. All of these fears rob life of joy because they steal our hope.

We are invited today to possess the One who opens the way to hope as we move toward the future: Jesus Christ, who alone can promise to love us no matter what we look like, or where we live, or how much money we make. Jesus Christ fully shares our human nature so that we can share in His Divine life which never ends and which alone is victorious over all that threatens to rob us of hope in this world which is so very temporary, whether disease or suffering or death.

Christ invites us to possess Him, to open our lives to the treasure of His love. He also gives us the means of doing so: to sincerely open ourselves to His Word in the sacred Scriptures and to receive Him with Faith and love as He gives Himself to us, truly present in the Eucharist.

Let us dedicate ourselves with fervent joy to these works of love, doing in this way exactly as the Lord invites us today, “Do not be afraid, just have Faith."

(Art: Christ and the woman subject to bleeding, BOULLOGNE, Louis de, Oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes.)

No comments: