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Homily for Friday of the 6th Week in Ordinary Time,

17 February 2022, Markos 8:34-9:1

Today’s first reading from the Letter of James is talking about FAITH, and what happens when it is reduced to sheer pietism without action. It becomes useless, he says. It is like a body without a spirit; it is dead.

When faith becomes a means of escape from the world, when it no longer has any impact or relevance to society and the way we live our lives, then it stops serving its true purpose. The kind of faith that Jesus evoked in his disciples was that which would make of us that little bit of leaven on a mass of dough (Lk 13:21), or that little pinch of salt that enhances the taste of food (Mt 5:13), or that little spark of light that drives away the darkness (Mt 5:14). When it stops serving that purpose, it becomes meaningless. It becomes a piece of antique in a museum where it has lost its original purpose.

James gives Abraham as an example of one whose faith was alive. What gives life to faith, as far as he is concerned, is a relationship, a friendship, a covenant. It is about us responding freely to God’s call or invitation. It is about the will to carry out the commandments because we are committed to covenant relationship with God and with one another. (This, by the way, is the reason why I prefer to call the Ten Commandments Ten Commitments.)

We also heard it today from the alleluia verse quoted from John 15:15. The whole verse says, “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”

No wonder the great figures of the Old Testament were called “Friends of God”. Aside from Abraham, we also have Moses whom God called his “intimate friend”, and whose face shone from being exposed to God’s glory. There is also Elijah whom God decided to take to heaven with him through a chariot of fire.

Theirs was a living faith, a faith that changed, not just them, but their people’s lives and history. A dead faith is a religion that is founded on fear, fear of punishment and retribution. In contrast, a living faith is one that is founded on love. St. John says “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8) and “Perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 Jn 4:18) The foundation of faith is a love that is ready and willing to die to self, to give up all for the sake of the beloved, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.

Sometimes I hear people who say “I have lost my faith.” Most of the time, what they really mean is, “I have lost what I thought was faith but which, I realized, was nothing but a dead religion.” The kind that James is speaking about in our first reading. Well, in such cases, perhaps losing it might be good news, after all. The Gospel is saying something to that effect too. It is those who save it who end up losing it, and it is those who lose it who end up finding it.

Remember Peter? It was when he left his boat and his nets and followed Jesus that he truly fulfilled his call to become the Great Fisherman that God wanted him to be. Or remember Paul? It was when he was blinded that he began to truly see the light. It was when he fell to the ground that he truly rose to greatness, to become the new person that Christ wanted him to be, a man who found his wealth in poverty, his strength in weakness. It was when Saul stopped living only for himself and allowed Christ to live in him that he became Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles.

Now is the opportunity to do what James in our first reading invites us to do—to demonstrate our faith by our action. Concretely, that means, by the way we will vote in the coming election 2022.

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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