Summary: Christian faith is faith in the incarnation of the Word and his bodily resurrection.
Thursday of 30th Week in Course
As we consider the gift of faith, this gift of seeing far through new eyes, we are challenged to see beyond the sufferings of the present. St. Paul, in this astonishing chapter 8 of the Letter to the Romans, pictures us in a courtroom, before God, the Judge. That’s an image we often encounter. We know we have sinned, and we imagine God as the Judge, about to crash His gavel down and send us to some prison. When we suffer some injury, we ask “what did I do wrong,” as if God’s only function was to make “karma” work. St. Paul sets us straight here. God has already paid our bail. Who will be the prosecuting attorney? The only representative of government in the courtroom is our Father, who has already justified us, that is, pronounced us innocent by the blood of His Son. Who will testify against us? The only witness is Jesus Christ, the source of our salvation, who is living after death and constantly praying for us to the Father. Who is the executioner? Well, we may die in this body, but even then we will be victorious. Paul gives us a category of ten things that we might fear, and he crosses them all off his list: “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus says as much in the Gospel. Herod wants to kill Him, He is told, but He knows that this renegade two-bit upstart and adulterer will not be his executioner. That is reserved for the faithless Jewish and Roman leaders, who will murder Him at the orders of the Emperor of the world. All the powers of earth must gather against God, and even kill the Son of God, so that it will be clear at the Resurrection that nothing the world throws against the Messiah and His community will destroy it. The Jewish Temple has been superceded by the Catholic Church, and that is where the Father will gather His men and women of faith–Jew and Gentile alike-- under His wings.
That was the culmination of the love-gift that began when the angel visited Mary in her poor hillside home in Nazareth. The popes write: “To enable us to know, accept and follow him, the Son of God took on our flesh. In this way he also saw the Father humanly, within the setting of a journey unfolding in time. Christian faith is faith in the incarnation of the Word and his bodily resurrection; it is faith in a God who is so close to us that he entered our human history. Far from divorcing us from reality, our faith in the Son of God made man in Jesus of Nazareth enables us to grasp reality’s deepest meaning and to see how much God loves this world and is constantly guiding it towards himself. This leads us, as Christians, to live our lives in this world with ever greater commitment and intensity.
On the basis of this sharing in Jesus’ way of seeing things, Saint Paul has left us a description of the life of faith. In accepting the gift of faith, believers become a new creation; they receive a new being; as God’s children, they are now “sons in the Son”. The phrase “Abba, Father”, so characteristic of Jesus’ own experience, now becomes the core of the Christian experience (cf.
Rom 8:15). The life of faith, as a filial existence, is the acknowledgment of a primordial and radical gift which upholds our lives. We see this clearly in Saint Paul’s question to the Corinthians: “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7). This was at the very heart of Paul’s debate with the Pharisees: the issue of whether salvation is attained by faith or by the works of the law. Paul rejects the attitude of those who would consider themselves justified before God on the basis of their own works. Such people, even when they obey the commandments and do good works, are centred on themselves; they fail to realize that goodness comes from God. Those who live this way, who want to be the source of their own righteousness, find that the latter is soon depleted and that they are unable even to keep the law. They become closed in on themselves and isolated from the Lord and from others; their lives become futile and their works barren, like a tree far from water.”
Today we come to this table, to the source of living water, because of our extreme need. If we are to be effective witnesses to God’s love, we need to participate in the sacrifice of Christ, and to be nourished by Him–Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity. This is the nutrition for our faith.