Fr. Mark's Homily - December 19, 2010 Waiting in Trust
Over the last three weeks of Advent we have looked at waiting in peace, hope and joy. We have come to know that true and lasting peace comes from God, Jehovah-Shalom (Jgs. 6:24); the Lord our peace. Peace comes from God through our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace, and there can be no peace in the hearts of men and women and among people and nations until we turn to the Lord Jesus to receive His mercy and live by His commandments the greatest of which is love the Lord your God with all you heart, mind and soul and your neighbour as yourself. We saw that we need hope beyond this world because human, natural hopes will not fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts and they will not all come to pass because they are not always realistic or in accordance with God’s plan for our lives. That hope that fulfills the deepest longing of our hearts is found in Jesus Christ who gives a hope that does not disappoint (Rom. 5:5). This is a supernatural hope infused in our hearts by the Holy Spirit and is one of the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. Last week we looked at joy. Both in the OT and in the NT we are called, as God’s people, to be a people of joy. In the OT we hear that the “joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Our Lord said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full” (Jn. 15:11). We are told that we are to have joy even in the midst of trials and suffering (Js. 1:2; 1Pt. 1:8). And that the “kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). This joy is also of supernatural origin and comes as a result of being in deep union with God. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us the love causes joy, that it is an effect of loving God. He teaches that it is the first effect of love and self-giving and is obtained by practicing charity. The more we love God and practice charity the more we will experience the Lord’s joy. Today we are going to look at waiting in trust. We are going to see the connection between trust in God and what St. Paul calls the “obedience of faith” in our second reading from Romans and how both trust and obedience is connected to love.
Trust is really the lynchpin upon which experiencing the peace, hope and joy we have been speaking about rests upon. Everything we receive from God is contingent upon trusting Him and believing (faith) His promises and doing what He asks of us. Last week I gave an acronym for trust, true resolve under severe testing while fear stands for false evidence appearing real. In our lives we are going to have to decide often who we trust and what we will believe. Today we find ourselves in a radically secularist and relativistic world. It is a world for the most part that has succumbed to the temptation that Satan used on our first parents and that is the temptation to acts as if God does not exist, to act as if we are gods. Our world is full of voices and most are not from God –we must decide who we are going to trust, believe and obey. We can trust, believe and obey people to the extent that they lead us in the truth. We cannot trust or obey people who lead us away from the truth or ask/persuade us to act contrary to the truth. We can trust God always because He is not a man that He should lie (Nm. 23:19) and He always has our best-interest at heart; He always speaks truth to us, which if we obey, will bring us freedom, healing, fullness of life.
We know as Catholics the fullness of truth is found in a person Jesus Christ who has given us the Church that transmits through its Magisterium this truth (1 Tim. 3:14). The entire content of what we call the “deposit of faith” is found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition which we call the living Magisterium (teaching office). The deposit of faith is the teaching of the Apostles and the living of that teaching in the life of prayer and the sacramental life, and the witness of the teaching in the moral life. The foundation is the sound doctrine which finds its expression in the Sacraments and above all the Holy Eucharist. We need to know our faith and guard what has been transmitted to us by Christ through His Church (I Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:12-14). Some, when we talk about the deposit of faith and sound doctrine begin to think it’s just a bunch of rules. Well, it is not about rules but rather it is about love and life. Our Lord said if we love Him we will obey His commandments just as He showed His love for His Father by His obedience (Jn. 15: 9-11;14). In his epistle, the beloved disciple John writes, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn. 5:2-3). It is all about loving God and when we do we want to show our love for Him by our obedience to His Word (His commandments and teachings) and we are told they are not burdensome –they are wisdom and life. The really amazing thing is that God promise that He will give us the desire to trust and obey Him. The prophet Ezekiel writes, “I will give them one heart and I will put a new spirit within them and take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ez. 11:10). The prophet Jeremiah declares, “I will put my laws in their minds and write it on their hearts and I will be their God and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:33). Every time we pray the Our Father we are asking for God to change our stony hearts and gives us the grace of “obedience of faith” when we say, “Thy will be done of earth as it is in heaven.” As we surrender our will to God’s will what is impossible for us, on our own, becomes possible for us in Christ, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The Catholic Catechism speaks to this, “How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in Him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to His Son’s, in order to fulfill His will, His plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united to with Jesus and with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to Him and decide to choose what His Son has always chosen; to do what is pleasing to the Father” (CCC# 2825).
It is trust in God and the obedience of faith that brings about the Lord’s blessing and purpose and plan for our lives. Each step closer to Christ is a step closer to experiencing to a fuller measure the true freedom, peace, hope and joy that God desires to give us. In our gospel today, God speaks to Joseph in a dream and says, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her womb is from the Holy Spirit.” Joseph must decide to be obedient to what the Lord has spoken to him. Joseph was which took faith and courage and because of his obedience, God’s plan and purpose for his life was fulfilled – Jospeh became the step-father of the Messiah, Son of God. It takes faith and courage to obey God. The devil operates in fear God operates in faith and love. We must understand that as God works in our lives he is going to stretch us. Thursday’s reading from Isaiah says, “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes” (Is. 54:1-2). If God is speaking and we are listening we have to expect Him to stretch us in our faith. It will take trust and courage to be obedient. Sometimes we might be misunderstood by others when we are obedient to what the Lord is asking of us. St. Paul says we must be willing to be “fools for Christ” (1Cor. 4:10). I had mention that in 2011 there will be some new pastoral initiatives. These pastoral initiatives will stretch individually and as a parish. We must decide if we are willing to let the Lord stretch us so our influence for the gospel can be enlarged. Perhaps the first way we might be stretched is attending the talk by Patrick Coffin on Wednesday, Dec. 29th on Humanae Vitae here at CM.
There are many Scriptures that speak to trusting and obeying God as the path to life and the path to holiness. The Psalmist writes, “Trust is the Lord, and do good. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass” (Ps. 37:3-5). In the book of Proverbs we hear, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all you ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). We are to trust and acknowledge God in all areas of our life: our work, our school, our home life, personal relationships, our finances our recreation and our sexuality. Trusting God begins with a decision (an act of our will) that we are going to believe what God says and do what He asks us to do in all aspects of our lives. As we grow in grace and knowledge of God we are able to respond in a deeper and more committed way to the gospel. This is what on-going deeper conversion is all about. Trust and the obedience of faith is the only way to experience the fullness of life Jesus Christ came to bring us. I am primarily talking about the interior life, the life of grace within us. This life of grace begins at baptism and is meant to grow and blossom. May the Lord give us the grace to trust Him in all things, the grace of obedience of faith that we might experience this abundant interior life he has for us more and more each day. Let us ask for the intercession of our Blessed Mother, the perfect disciple, mother of the Church and our mother, that we may through her Immaculate Heart enter in the Sacred Heart of her Son the source of these abundant graces and blessings.
Catholic Orthodoxy; Antidote Against The Culture of Death (Cardinal Raymond Burke, World- Prayer –Congress for Life, October 9, 2010).
Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer- by: Fr. Thomas Dubay, Ignatius Press, 2006