Message: Faith is a light and true faith reaches out to include others – not because of our shining goodness, but through baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
For Advent this year I am doing a series of homilies on the Light of Faith. Last week we saw why it’s important to once again see that faith is a light. As Pope Francis pointed out, “once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim.”
Now, I know that many people do not see it that way. They identify faith with exclusion, fanaticism and even violence. Those things are possible, but they are perversions of faith.
True faith is always inclusive. We see in the Gospel that people came to John the Baptism from “all Judea” and “the whole region around the Jordan.” John received them all – not just the good Jewish people, but also tax collectors, prostitutes and even Roman soldiers. He knows they all have something in common: they need God and they need repentance.
John brings people together around a common ritual; he baptizes them as they confess their sins. Jesus and the Church he founded continues that practice. Pope Francis states, “The transmission of faith occurs first and foremost in baptism.” And quoting Augustine, he makes a reference to infant baptism: “Parents are called not only to bring children into the world, but also to bring them to God, so that through baptism they can be reborn as children of God and receive the gift of faith.”
Like John the Baptist, the Church invites everyone. We are like a body where every organ and every cell has its role. If we exclude anyone, we know that the whole body suffers.
John, however, does have a hard word for one group – the Pharisees. He calls them a bundle of snakes – a “brood of vipers.” Why such strong language? Pope Francis gives the reason. They are people who “consider themselves justified before God on the basis of their own works. Such people, writes Pope Francis, “even when they obey the commandments and do good work are centered on themselves; they fail to realize that goodness comes from God.” And as the pope points out, “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 to keep the law.”
How often do we hear people brag about their good deed and who look down others, wind up doing the things they condemn in others? I’m sure you’ve noticed that when a person points his index finger at someone, he has three fingers pointed back at himself.
When you and I let go of our false self-righteousness, something beautiful happens. We open ourselves to God’s forgiveness and realize that, with God’s grace, we can forgive others. In Lumen Fidei Pope Francis writes: “Forgiveness is possible once we discover that goodness is always prior to and more powerful than evil.” He adds that “forgiveness…demands time and effort, patience and commitment.”
Faith makes possible forgiveness. It frees us from the cycle of accusation and self-justification. Now, I know there are people I will probably never like and there are people who make me burn inside when I remember what they did or said. Still, because of faith, I cannot resign myself to exclude even one human being. As Pope Francis says, “goodness is always prior to and more powerful than evil.” Thanks be to God for that. I have more own share. If I have received forgiveness by faith then by faith, I can exclude no person.
Is this just a pipe dream? We will see that faith, like science, has a methodology – and that faith is a valid way to know truth. Not just a subjective, personal truth, but truth that can bring us together in genuine human community. I will not be giving my feeble opinions, but authentic Church teaching directly from Pope Francis – and from the Gospel itself. More next week.
So, for today, what’s the message? Faith is a light and true faith reaches out to include others – not because of our shining goodness, but through baptism for the forgiveness of sins.* Amen.
Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
December 8, 2013
Second Sunday of Advent
Today we hear once again the impatient voice of John the Baptist urging us to change so that we may be worthy to receive the Lord as he continues to come into our world. Crooked ways must be made straight; bad habits need to be corrected; conversion must continue. This message comes straight from God and that is why John proclaims it in the desert–a place that has always been associated with divine mystery and freedom. (See how this is portrayed in the relationship between Ahab and Elijah: 1 Kings 18:7ff). Human control has no place in the symbolic wilderness of divine freedom.
First the Fast – Then the Feast – 2nd Sunday in Advent
Christmas cards speak about it. Christmas carols sing about it. Even the angels at Bethlehem proclaimed it. “Peace on earth.” “The lion shall lie down with the lamb.” (Is 11). “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever” (Ps 72).
The coming of the Messiah obviously has something to do with the advent of peace.
The Second Sunday of Advent: Put Off the Toiling and Let Love In
“I am not going to make it! I am not going to make it!” muttered the lady in the supermarket the first week of Christmas.
“It” probably referred to the massive preparation needed to provide her family with a beautiful Christmas. There were gifts to buy, to wrap, and some to send. There were meals to prepare and parties to attend. There was the house. It had to be immaculate. Her husband’s mother would be visiting. Enough said. Then the kids. They seem to have more parties to attend and higher expectations made of them then adults. And then there were Christmas cards. How was she supposed to get all this done for Christmas? “I’m not going to make it,” she muttered.
The Poor in Spirit – The Witnesses to A New Advent
What is the secret of joy in these days of Advent? Even before apostolic action, the Holy Father’s latest teaching invites us to a deeper contemplation — a prayerful gaze that sees the poor from God’s perspective.
Pope Francis wants a Church that is “poor and for the poor.” He believes the poor have much to teach us, that we need to be evangelized by them, and that they should be in the heart of the Church’s pilgrim way.
Five Advent Tips
Advent makes us grateful to be Catholic: It is full of beautiful, ancient traditions unique to our faith — an ideal time to instill a yearning for Christ in our kids.
During Advent, we can experience with our children what it was like to be an Old Testament people, longing for a Savior.
Three Reasons to Pray the Angelus this Advent
Farmers pause in their fields at midday and bow their heads in prayer. Businessmen and women overhear the ringing bells of nearby churches during their lunch break in the downtown business district. Neighbors to Catholic Churches hear the church bells toll thrice daily at six, noon, and six, as an invitation to pray the traditional devotion of the Angelus.