Taking our faith seriously


Homily for the readings on August 22, XXI Sunday OT

What is Christianity really about?

The media and our society in general tend to present religion (including Christianity) as just a set of shared convictions that help people to find meaning in the events of their lives. It offers solace in difficulty and provides opportunities for shared joy and celebration. Going to Sunday services (or not) is a personal choice and an indicator of conviction. In short, religion is (in this view) a cultural construct that answers certain human emotional and psychological needs. Hence, one religion is perceived as being as good as another, inasmuch as it serves its purpose for those who believe in it.

Today’s readings tell us that, while Christianity does have the functions described above, they are merely the result of something much more important. Christianity is the revelation of God himself to humanity and the path to eternal salvation. What it deals with is not primarily how we feel, but whether we will go to heaven or to hell. It is about a wonderful Truth that must be proclaimed to all nations, as we see in the first reading and psalm. It requires that we strive for our salvation, as Jesus teaches in the Gospel. Since the gate to heaven is narrow, we must persevere in the times of difficulty that God allows to strengthen and purify us, as St Paul tells us in the second reading.

So, our faith is not some subjective psychological and philosophical panacea, that we can use just to the degree that we feel comfortable, like sugar in our coffee, or that we can restrict to a fixed weekly time slot, like our favorite TV show. Everyone wants to go to heaven for all eternity, but Jesus tells us clearly in the Gospel that not all who try and think they will succeed are going to make it. The Catholic faith is the “guidebook” on how to get there. All salvation comes through Christ, and the Church is His Mystical Body. Yes, it’s possible for someone to be saved without visibly being a member of the Church, but only through the grace that comes through the Church; as the Latin saying goes, “extra Ecclesiam, nulla salus” – there is no salvation outside of the Church.

This is why it is so important that we know, love and live our faith, and give it priority as the guiding principle of our lives. This is why we have to take very seriously the responsorial psalm for today: “go out to all the world and tell the good news.” Our eternal life and theirs depends on it.

The relativism of our culture and the practical need to live in harmony with people who have conflicting beliefs make it easy to water down these truths. We can slip into treating our faith as just one more commodity, habit or family tradition. Nothing would make the devil happier. So today, let’s renew our awareness of the invisible drama of salvation that is playing out every day in every human soul. And let us ask our Savior for the strength to make it through the narrow door and bring as many people as possible with us. May we bring such a crowd on the last day that St Peter will see us coming and have to renovate and widen the pearly gates to be able to receive us all.

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About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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2 Responses to Taking our faith seriously

  1. Diana McKelvey says:

    I am under the impression that in order to be saved, one needs to confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and Savior and believe in his heart that God raised HIM from the dead. Diana

    • Diana, that is certainly true, but it’s only part of the story. No passage of the New Testament or the Old Testament is totally independent and self-sufficient; it can only be fully understood in the context of the whole – which goes beyond the Bible itself. The Bible is inspired truth that comes from God but which was compiled and consolidated within a community which also has handed on other truths not explicitly stated in the Bible. We can also come to a deeper understanding of these truths through reasoning and reflection.
      It is in this light that we have to understand the teaching of the Church that some people of good will could be saved without knowing Christ, but yet depending on Christ’s work of salvation and on the Church. That is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 846-848 (available here).

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