TWENTY FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
In the gospel reading of this 21st Sunday in ordinary times, Peter said, “Lord, where shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. This was his answer when Christ asked if the apostles were not going to leave Him, just as many of the disciples had done. There is no doubt that the teachings of our faith can sometimes be very hard to take. People question the real presence of Christ in Holy Eucharist; whether there is heaven and hell; the veracity of the sacrament of reconciliation; why should we honor Our Blessed Mother; whether God truly exists, etc. The fact is that it is increasingly more difficult for people to walk by faith, and not by sight. Yet, Scripture tells us that, without faith, it is impossible to please.
Developing a faith like Peter’s does not happen overnight; it is a life’s long journey, and ours is to figure out how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that we can develop an unshakeable faith. During a symposium that we organized, many years ago, participants were asked to identify factors that they considered to be very essential in developing a strong Christian faith. Four factors made it to the top of the list and they are:
A solemn belief that I am a child of God, chosen and loved by Him unconditionally; that He knows me by name and that, no matter what, He will never abandon, reject, betray, or leave me desolate; that trials and difficulties that come my way in this life are meant to build, strengthen, shape, and mold my character; and that God has the power to move, remove, or walk me through every valley of darkness, as Scripture says; “Whoever clings to me I will deliver”.
An unconditional trust that God is faithful to His promises and that He has a plan for my life. Scripture says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” So, I need to believe that because God is all-powerful and all-knowing, nothing that comes my way, in this life, will ever surprise Him, for He is bigger than any trial or tribulation that life may throw at me. Being Almighty and eternal, He is capable of turning any situation around—mourning into dancing, tears into songs, and failures into blessings. Remember that “Every promise of God is yes in God and Amen unto us in Christ Jesus”.
To be alert and awake in our faith, always watching and praying, so that we do not dip into lukewarmness or fall away from the Lord. Scripture says, “Draw near to God and He will draw nearer to you.” It is easy to become complacent with our faith; to become cluttered and distracted with the messy stuff of life, and to start neglecting our prayer and spiritual life. We need to stay constantly in the per-view of the Holy Spirit which is the power of God to comfort in times of grief, solace in moments of difficulty, direction in moments of confusion, courage in moments of despondency, and hope in times of disappointments.
To be true disciples of stewardship in the parish by finding active ways to serve the Lord among His people—the mouth that proclaims His word; the hands that distributes Holy Communion, feeds the hungry, and touches the sick and afflicted in order to bring them comfort; the talent that drives programs to keep the Church alive and growing; the Catechist who hands down tradition to the younger generation; the treasure that helps keep the Church open and running; the presence that welcomes people into the Church, etc. The more we find ways to serve God among His people, the more God find ways to be present to us through His faithful.
I, therefore, want to encourage all of us to reflect on these factors, and to find ways to work them into our lives, as we continue this journey of faith with a consistent, persistent, and unyielding spirit.