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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Focus: Focus on Faith

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. John 20:19-31

Lucky Thomas, he literally got hands-on proof to bolster his faith. We will have to wait a little longer for that sublime experience. Until that time, Jesus tells us we are blessed because we believe in what we do not see. But before we congratulate ourselves for a pious achievement, we should understand that our faith is entirely a gift from God. It is a grace infused in us, not a virtue generated by us. Our job is to cooperate with God’s grace, to nurture and protect our gift of faith. That does not mean faith should be hidden and hoarded. For faith to live in us, we must live openly, confidently, joyfully in faith. Jesus did not go to the cross for us to live timidly as closet Christians in an increasingly secular and cynical world.

Let’s use this lesson of Christ’s appearances in the upper room to probe the nature of faith and its impact on our lives. Faith was never meant to be an affirmation of some frail, static body of beliefs, incapable of surviving a collision with empirical evidence. Our dynamic, vibrant faith welcomes scientific revelations from Darwin to “The Big Bang.” As pioneer anthropologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin explained: “Faith has need of the whole truth.” We welcome scientific breakthroughs as further proof of the endless wonders of creation and the endless glory of the Creator.

But faith is not an intellectual exercise. It is not an abstraction for theologians to parse. Faith is a fire that burns within us, fueled by God’s grace. We must tend the fire or be left in the cold ashes of indifference. Constant fidelity is the ideal of faith. But few of us achieve it. We are human. We get tired. We get distracted. We are sinners. We serve our pride and our appetites. We stray from our faith. We may even deny it. But faith is not our creation. We did not will it into being, anymore than we willed ourselves into being. Jesus is ever ready to enter into the upper room of our neglect and rejection. But Christ will not coerce us into belief. We must truly work out our own salvation. Ever since baptism, when Christ claimed us for his own, saving grace has lived in us waiting to be worked out.

“Out” is the operative word. No matter how humble or reserved our character, we were never meant to tip-toe through life keeping our faith a closely guarded secret. In word and deed our faith must be proclaimed. And not just on Easter, Christmas and the occasional Sunday… that’s not faith. That’s casual observance of tradition. True Christian faith is all-pervasive. It shapes our personality. It governs our conduct. In all things, we must put faith first

The disciples came together in fear; they went out together in faith. Conviction replaced confusion. They drew strength from Jesus and shared it with each other. That is the social model of our faith community to this day. The light of faith does not burn uniformly in all of us, all the time. That is why we come together in need and in plenty. We support each other in prayer and fellowship. We instill and reinforce the habits of faith in our loved ones. We share our faith and we see it flower all around us. Faith builds on faith … it is the ultimate virtuous cycle.

As Paul teaches us: of “Faith, Hope and Charity”… Charity is the greatest of all. But it is “Faith” that comes first of all. This is not a random ranking. As St. Ignatius of Antioch explains: “Faith is the beginning and the end is love. God is the two of them brought into unity.”

So, thank you, Thomas. Your doubts made possible this lesson in faith. Thank you, Jesus. You have died and risen once again within us. Thank you, Father. Every day you give us the grace to increase our faith and to live in your love, as we joyfully journey home to you.


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