Summary: We must stay award of the stories of those around us who are on the journey of faith
Thursday of 7th Week in Course 2014
There is a horrible temptation always attracting the Christian, the one who has been invited to the banquet of Word and Eucharist, has accepted the invitation, has led a good life of service to others. The temptation is to believe that we have already made it, that we can sit back and let others do the work, give the tithes, perform the service, and just enjoy ourselves in the knowledge that we are loved and saved by God’s mercy. St. James is not writing to the heathens in his letter. He’s writing to Jewish Christians, some of whom have grown rich in the world’s wealth, and who are unwilling to share with the poor of their community. He lumps them in with the Pharisees who plotted to kill the truly Just One, Jesus. What we on earth consider enduring, like gold and platinum and diamonds, is just dross in the eyes of God. That’s why the NT can talk about gold and silver rusting–something that doesn’t happen outside an uncommon solvent like aqua regia. When we look at our possessions with God’s eyes, any attachment we have to them is vile and dehumanizing. Our real treasure is the service we can render to the homeless, the orphan, the hungry, and the uneducated.
The same kind of hyperbolic talk is used by Jesus to describe the person who is addicted to some kind of sinful behavior. The word we translate “causes one of these little ones to sin” is skandaliou, which we transliterate to “scandalize.” The culture has completely messed with our understanding of the word “scandal.” It means that we do something that causes someone else, a weaker conscience or will, to think that an evil act is actually good. I had an English teacher sit in my office a few years ago and tell me that she was “scandalized” by my insisting on the moral teachings of the Church respecting marriage. What she meant was that she was surprised, shocked and outraged that I would make decisions based on that teaching. She didn’t understand that if I didn’t make that decision, I would be advertising to everyone that the Church is wrong. That would be a scandal, a scandal I was trying to avoid.
Jesus, on the other hand, insists on the goodness of those who help those who act in the name of Christ. We should add, whether they are Christians or not. Some are on the road to faith even if they don’t know it. The popes teach us:
“Because faith is a way, it also has to do with the lives of those men and women who, though not believers, nonetheless desire to believe and continue to seek. To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith. They strive to act as if God existed, at times because they realize how important he is for finding a sure compass for our life in common or because they experience a desire for light amid darkness, but also because in perceiving life’s grandeur and beauty they intuit that the presence of God would make it all the more beautiful. Saint Irenaeus of Lyons tells how Abraham, before hearing God’s voice, had already sought him “in the ardent desire of his heart” and “went throughout the whole world, asking himself where God was to be found”, until “God had pity on him who, all alone, had sought him in silence”.32 Anyone who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by his help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk towards the fullness of love.”
I think it’s important for us to stay aware of those around us who are on the journey of faith. We are on that journey ourselves, and we have been given great gifts to help us on that path–faith, hope, charity, the sacraments, particularly the Blessed Eucharist. Others have not yet discovered those great aids to our walk with and towards Christ. So let’s listen to them tell us their stories, first of all, and pray for them and with them, especially when they are in pain. Who knows what kind word or compassionate action of ours might bring them to ask “why are you always smiling?” Then we can tell them our story.