Saturday, June 16, 2012

Faith Works!

11 Sunday B  #92

Ez 17, 22-24
Ps 92
2 Cor 5, 6-10
Mk 4, 26-34

Peter Maurin Farm
June 17, 2012

Deacon Tom Cornell

                   Happy Fathers’ Day!  When a man becomes a father it changes his life.  It changes him.  He takes his first look at the little creature reddish and wrinkly at his wife’s breast and he knows, but it takes a while before the enormity of it all sinks in:  life has changed;  he’s no longer the man he was.  Women seem to understand these things instantly.  It takes us men a little longer.  We know we have been given a mighty gift, to be co-creators with God and our wives, co-creators of a new human life.  We have taken our place on the ladder of life, passing on what had been passed on to us from all generations since the beginning of time.  Knowing this gives us a feeling of deep satisfaction, worth, happiness.  May that feeling be renewed in all fathers today and stay with you all.

                   Jesus taught us to call God “Our Father,” and so we do.  But we know that God is neither male nor female.  He is neither a man nor a woman.  God is spirit, to be worshiped in spirit and in truth.  Our God did not create and then walk away.  God is involved in His creation.  Like an earthly father, God provides and protects.  He led the People out of slavery in Egypt.  He gave the People the Law, and then He gave his only begotten son over to us that we might have life everlasting through faith in him.  But God has a feminine side too, nurturing and comforting, like a mother hen who would gather her chicks under her wings, as Jesus put it of himself.  

                    In Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians today we read, “…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one might receive recompense according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”     

          In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus compare the Kingdom of God to a field of wheat.  The farmer scatters the seed and of its own accord, he doesn’t know how, it grows until he can harvest another crop.  The seed the farmer scatters is our good deeds, the works of mercy, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned and counseling the doubtful, forgiving injuries, praying for the living and the dead and so forth, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  We need not know how, we need not even see the results, ever, but these will build the Kingdom of Heaven until Jesus comes again to bring it to fulfillment.  But we can’t do them without faith.  And so with the mustard seed.  Faith, as weak as it may be, can be nurtured and grow to sustain great deeds.  Without faith we can do nothing and faith is a free gift, a grace of God, Paul tells us (Rom 3, 21-26).  Pope Benedict in his encyclical, Spe salvi, Saved by Hope, he tells us the same.  By hope he means a confident expectation, faith.  So what is it?  Are we saved by faith or by good works as Paul seems to imply in today’s reading?  

          Theologians have been teasing this question for centuries.  Good works will flow from authentic faith firmly held, but faith is itself a gift, a grace freely given.  However we understand the relation of faith with works, in the end we must neither presume nor despair.  These are sins against the Holy Spirit.  We presume if we say, “I’m saved.  It doesn’t matter what I do, what I have done.  My sins are paid for by Christ’s blood.   I won’t be called to account because I believe.”  That’s wrong!  That’s a grave sin.  But it would be just as grave a sin to despair:  “I’m so bad, I’ve done such horrible things in my life that not even Christ could forgive me!  So I might as well keep being the wretched creature I am and keep doing the same damned thing. ” 

          Jesus stands there and knocks at the door.  Do not dare to lock it.  He wants to enter and sit down with you at the table.  If you have any doubts about that, bring them to our new pastor, Father Bassett.  His door is open, the deacons’ too.  And be glad, rejoice and be glad.  We have a Savior and we have an Advocate, the Holy Spirit of God, and we have a Church community holding each other up.  We have the Word in Scripture and we have the Bread of Life at the altar table.  Come and be filled!   W