PROOF OF THE PUDDING

FAITH IN FOCUS: PROOF OF THE PUDDING

A TV personality was interviewed recently and the first question he was asked to clarify was whether or not he had “gone all religious”. The implication was that religious people are a bit strange and it would be a pity if he too had gone off the rails and become like those Christians. Incidentally, this was on the same programme that dangled crystals over people to try and find them a partner, and invited people to phone in and say whether Madrid, Manchester or Motherwell was the capital of Spain, in order to get a chance to win thousands.

People have always had it in for those who are “religious”. The godless in today’s reading from Wisdom decide to make a man’s life a misery in order to see either if he will crack or if God will intervene to save him. And in our culture that puts all its eggs in the basket of earning, getting and having, even the most dedicated religious person (whether Christian, Jew, Muslim or whatever) comes under severe pressure to live for the moment with no thought of what lies beyond.

So do the wicked prosper while the good go wanting? In a certain sense they do. They appear to have a good time at others’ expense. But those who do evil begin to experience death. There is a physical and psychological wearing down brought on by wrongdoing. And there is an even greater deterioration of enthusiasm, happiness and trust. To cast decency to the wind means that we have to look for increasingly more exotic ways of “getting our kicks”.

Christians don’t believe in Karma, in what goes around comes around. Instead we trust that God has our best interests at heart and that the way of life that Jesus invites us to follow will not leave us ultimately lacking. Our faith is not about having, but about being. It places us in a relationship with God that is all satisfying. Christianity is not a thing, it’s a communal way of living in which we believe in a God of love who made us for life, living and loving, and who has promised to be with us to the end of time. Since God upholds our life, this is enough for us. We leave the fate of others in God’s hands.

 

TELL US WHO HE IS

FAITH IN FOCUS: TELL US WHO HE IS

‘Christ’ is not Jesus’ surname. It’s not Mr and Mrs Christ and their son Jesus. Insofar as Jesus had a name like ours, then it was Joshua Josephson. Christ means anointed, and in the case of Jesus it means that he is the one sent by God to reveal the true purpose of life and how to achieve it for ever. So when Jesus asked who people thought he was, it was Peter who came up with the answer: ‘You are the Christ’.

But if Jesus is the Christ, the anointed Son of God, then we can’t simply take it or leave it. We have to accept him as Lord or ruler of our lives. We have to accept that he offers us a different quality of life. And strangely he tells us that to keep our life we must give it up, we must carry our cross and die to self.

This is not a very popular teaching. Our world laughs at the idea and prefers a ‘get what you can’ way of life: if I want it why shouldn’t I have it… if I think it’s OK then it is… I’m entitled to my share of the cake… charity begins at home.

So when the world asks us who this Christ is, what do our lives reply? When they ask what importance he has in our world, what do our lives show? Why do so many people live today without seeming to need to know about him? Is it because we don’t need him?

Is there anything about our lives that gives the impression that it’s someone else who makes us live? Do we appear to be living resurrected lives, on a level that is deeper than simple human existence? Do we live a comfortable Christian existence or do we take risks to live for Christ?

Do our ways of looking at problems and difficulties come from Christ? Are we living a risen life? Or are we just the same as everyone else?

Taking up our cross and denying ourselves means more than not complaining about our toothache or giving up chocolate. It’s about identifying ourselves with Christ’s rejection, shame, suffering and death in order to live his new and risen existence. 

Jesus asked, who do people say I am? The only way they are going to find out today is through the way we Christians live. Do we go for the easy option or do we follow the Christ of God to the point of denying ourselves for the sake of others?

 

LOOKING AT LOVE

FAITH IN FOCUS: LOOKING AT LOVE

 “Once, while preaching in a parish, I suddenly caught sight of a young mother with her child and you could see the love between them. I was terribly tempted to say to the congregation: Forget what I am saying and look over there, and you will see what we mean to God.”

Those words were spoken by the late Cardinal Basil Hume. In a simple way he shows that God’s way of communicating with us is not through lofty pronouncements, but in and through the ordinariness of human life.

What more lovely or simple thing could we wish to see than a mother and baby enjoying each other’s company? We see it every day all around us but it’s not that often that we stop to think and go beyond the obvious. The love between a mother and baby is a sign, a pointer to the love that God has for us in his Son Jesus Christ. Since God is true love itself, every act of love we witness and experience is a manifestation of divine love.

When we love, it is God in action. And when we see love in others we can catch a glimpse of God’s favour to our world for we are looking at love itself.

In today’s gospel Jesus cured a deaf man with a speech impediment. In fact, the deaf hearing and the dumb speaking were signs that the Jewish people waited for as an indication that the new age of God’s reign was about to begin. So Jesus’s miracle was a messianic sign, a sign associated with the coming of the long-expected saviour whom God had promised through the prophets.

In this new age of the kingdom of God people are set free to see things that lay hidden, to hear of the wonders that God is working day by day, and to tell others about God’s goodness.

And, of course, that time is now. God never gives up on us, any more than the mother would give up on the baby. And we Christians exist to discern that loving presence of God in our world and to point it out to others. That’s why God has opened our eyes, unblocked our ears and loosened our tongues.