First Reading: James 1:1-11
Gospel: Mark 8:11-13
MATURING IN FAITH
Today’s Scripture readings challenge our faith.
We all want signs to firm up our faith. If only such and such a thing would happen then I would believe. I have done much grief counseling over the years. More than once, I have heard the painful lament from a grief-stricken person: I prayed and prayed for his/her recovery and she died. How could God allow this? I don’t believe anymore because God did not act on my prayer. Their faith seemed to depend upon a sign – that of recovery from illness. In today’s Gospel, a Pharisee begins to argue with Jesus “seeking from Him a sign.” Jesus, in exasperation, says “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” What Jesus is looking for is faith – believing without follow-up signs to validate God’s presence and action in our lives. Our prayer needs to be like that of the early apostles, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” The lack of a sign does not mean that God is not alive and active in our lives. God always walks with us. God never abandons us, sign or no sign. Maturing as a believing Catholic means relying less and less on signs and more and more placing our trust in the person of Jesus who never lets us down no matter what.
In his letter, James reminds us that “the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Living without signs; living on naked faith makes adult Christians of us. The precious virtue of perseverance is forged in the furnace of trials especially as regards the maturation of our faith. Those who believe will be tried in one way or another. Reports tells us that active persecution of Christians is a world-wide phenomena. It is savage in countries on every continent and in the majority of countries. Oftentimes it is subtle; many times it is flagrant and in many countries it is state sponsored. Think Pakistan and its infamous blasphemy laws. Think most Moslem countries where conversion to Christianity is forbidden and often punishable by death. Think Central America and the harassment and often murder of those who work for peace and justice. Think Mexico where seventeen priests have been murdered in the past few years. Think of the so-called liberal democracies of the West where you can be penalized for wearing a cross at work or lose your job for not taking part in an abortion or in euthanasia. It takes guts. It takes courage. It takes perseverance to own being a believing Catholic Christian in these and similar circumstances. And yet it is in perseverance that our faith grows and that we truly follow in the footsteps of Jesus Crucified.
Brother Andre Mathieu, C.P.