Living Our Beliefs – and What Happens When We Don’t

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If you had a message of great importance that you wanted the whole world to know about, who would you choose to deliver it? In the Mass readings this Sunday, we saw that God’s ways are not our ways. God can choose whoever He wants to accomplish the things He wishes to accomplish, as we see in the first reading. Moses complained to God that the mission of guiding His Chosen People has become too great of a burden for him. So, God shares the spirit that He had given to Moses with 70 others, even those who were not in the prescribed place. Though this confused Joshua, Moses was given the wisdom to recognize that this was the work of God. The spirit of God is more important than the instrument He chooses.

Bernadette Soubirous in 1863

A more current example is Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, France. This thirteen-year-old girl, who lived in poverty with her family, was of poor health and had difficulty in school. When we were in Lourdes a few years ago, a bishop celebrating Mass near the Grotto said, “If you wanted to give a message to the whole world who would you choose; someone of great importance from a large city? Our Lord chose Bernadette from Lourdes. Through the ages God has chosen people of little significance to be His instruments. His ways our not our ways.” There are some who still reject the Blessed Mother as a messenger of God in spite of the miracles connected to her apparitions. They think that the works of God are confined to their own understanding. Sometimes we also can be like that.

We see something similar in Sunday’s Gospel. John, the apostle closest to Jesus, has just tried to stop someone from driving out demons in Jesus’ name because that person was apparently not a follower of Jesus. Jesus chastises John and tells him, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” What is important is why and how things are done. If they are done out of love of God and neighbor, we should be cautious about rendering judgment. It is not always obvious why people do certain things unless they are clearly good or clearly evil.

Our focus must be on why we do what we do. God has revealed His plan to us through the Scriptures and the Church: We know that through baptism we become children of God and receive the gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We know that we can encounter Christ in a deep and personal way through the Sacraments of the Church, the sources of the grace we need to live close to God in prayer and to discover His plan for us. We know that God wants us to be holy and has made it possible for us to be holy if we are faithful to what He has revealed to us, and this faithfulness will help us reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity.

We can be certain that this plan is true because it has been discovered and lived by saints through the ages who have been heroic witnesses of the love of God. There are consequences for us when we do not live this plan. Jesus said that if we live for our self, we will lose our life; and not only our life because we will give scandal to others. We must remove everything that is an obstacle to salvation.

There is no one on this earth more blessed than Catholics because God has given us every possible means to live a life close to Him. We have His Divine Word, the Scriptures; we have His Church to guide us and strengthen us with the Sacraments. We have the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints to intercede for us. We especially have the Holy Eucharist in which Jesus gives us himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity because he loves us that much. Why would the whole world not want to Catholic and have what we have? Could it be because we have scandalized the world by not living what we have received; by following the ways of the world instead of the Gospel? How can we expect others to believe what has been handed on to us by the Apostles and there successors if we are not witnesses of what we profess?

About thirty years ago, someone asked me why I was Catholic. I was glad to be Catholic and knew I would never want to be anything but a Catholic. I went to Mass every Sunday and to confession occasionally, but I realized at that time I never really gave much thought to the importance of my faith. Actually, I hadn’t learned anything about my faith since graduating from a Catholic high school. At that moment, I knew I wasn’t really sure of what I believed. As I pondered that for a few days I realized I had let the importance of my faith fade. I had become a ‘One-Hour-A-Week’ Catholic; my decisions were not influenced by my faith at all. Thank God for the wake up call. It was not long after that, that I bought my first Bible and joined a prayer group with my wife. We began to pray together and study our faith, and a new joy came into our lives. I guess you could say that was the beginning of the rest of our life together and opened up new possibilities and now our important decisions are based on our relationship with God and we have great hope.

When we profess our creed together, let us reflect on the words we say, and ask the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts with gratitude for being recipients of Almighty God’s great plan of salvation and the intimacy He offers us in His Church. Let us pray then for the grace to be witnesses of what we believe.

This blog was originally preached by Deacon Tom Fox as his homily for 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B) at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas.

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