Summary: Our faith enables us to triumph even when the evil culture seems to be overwhelming the goodness we seek.
Thursday of 12th week in Course 2014
St. Josemaria taught: “You hear people saying sometimes that there are fewer miracles nowadays. Might it not rather be that there are fewer people living a life of faith? God cannot go back on his promise, 'Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession.'” (Friends of God 190) Jesus is very clear in this Gospel. We can imagine from the passage what was going on in St. Matthew’s community that brought this saying of Jesus to mind. There must have been people, perhaps even ordained men, who were really good at saying “thus says the Lord” to others, but who failed to follow the twin commandments to love. It’s pretty easy to do holy things without becoming holy. You only have to do them for the wrong reason, like for self-esteem or to win the praise of others. Jesus will know us because we avoid evil and do good out of love for Him and our fellow humans.
We are given some very bad examples in the OT readings this month. King after king of Judah has the same inscription on his literary tombstone: “he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done.” It’s too bad the scribes didn’t have a word processor. They could have saved a lot of time with Control-C and shift-insert. Over and over, “he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. . .” And the result was a corruption of the entire society so that when the Babylonians came, there was no will to resist, no understanding that the people were fighting for the honor of God, whom they had come daily to dishonor.
The popes see this happening in today’s society, and they even quote T.S. Eliot: “When faith is weakened, the foundations of humanity also risk being weakened, as the poet T.S. Eliot warned: ‘Do you need to be told that even those modest attainments / As you can boast in the way of polite society / Will hardly survive the Faith to which they owe their significance?’48 If we remove faith in God from our cities, mutual trust would be weakened, we would remain united only by fear and our stability would be threatened. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that ‘God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them’ (Heb 11:16). Here the expression ‘is not ashamed’ is associated with public acknowledgment. The intention is to say that God, by his concrete actions, makes a public avowal that he is present in our midst and that he desires to solidify every human relationship. Could it be the case, instead, that we are the ones who are ashamed to call God our God? That we are the ones who fail to confess him as such in our public life, who fail to propose the grandeur of the life in common which he makes possible? Faith illumines life and society. If it possesses a creative light for each new moment of history, it is because it sets every event in relationship to the origin and destiny of all things in the Father.”
Faith does shine light on both life and society. We have been in a grim battle with the culture of death at least since the 1950s. Moreover, it appears that the bad guys are winning, even among Christians. Divorce, contraception, abortion, even infanticide are widely practiced here and in most other countries. Killing of the elderly is beginning to spread. And now the family is under vigorous assault. The latest to cave on attempted marriage by two people of the same sex, the Presbyterian Church USA, tells their preachers they may “perform ‘any such marriage they believe the Holy Spirit calls then to perform, where legal by state law.’” So now the excuse for doing evil is no longer “the devil made me do it,” but is “the Holy Spirit made me do it.” Doesn’t that sound like attributing to God the works of evil? I think Jesus had something to say about that.
The Church is undergoing a real time of trial today. But the Popes have hope: “Writing to the Christians of Corinth about his sufferings and tribulations, Saint Paul links his faith to his preaching of the Gospel. In himself he sees fulfilled the passage of Scripture which reads: ‘I believed, and so I spoke’(2 Cor 4:13). The reference is to a verse of Psalm 116, in which the psalmist exclaims: ‘I kept my faith, even when I said, “ am greatly afflicted’” (v. 10). To speak of faith often involves speaking of painful testing, yet it is precisely in such testing that Paul sees the most convincing proclamation of the Gospel, for it is in weakness and suffering that we discover God’s power which triumphs over our weakness and suffering.” And so, as we take the Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity of Christ, whose failure became the greatest success in the Resurrection, we, too, can have confidence that Christ has already triumphed, and will do so again in our day.