Faith can be found in many places – homily for August 3, 2011


Homily for August 3, Wednesday of the XVIII week of Ordinary Time

We cannot judge anyone’s faith or goodness of heart by their ethnicity, nationality, or even, at times, by their religion. That might sound like a radical statement, but it’s a logical conclusion we can draw from today’s readings.

In the first reading, by God’s command, Moses sent a group of men to explore the land of Canaan that God promised to give them. They liked the land itself, but were afraid that they would not be able to conquer the inhabitants, despite God’s promise. Their lack of faith led them to exaggerate the dangers of trying to settle there, and even to contradict themselves in their eagerness to discourage their people from doing God’s will. First they said that the land was flowing with milk and honey, and that the inhabitants were strong, fierce and gigantic. Then, they turned around and said that the land “consumes its inhabitants”. The men responsible for these contradictory lies, who distrusted God and disobeyed His plan, were princes selected from the cream of the crop of God’s own chosen people. The Lord punished them appropriately for their disgraceful behavior.

The Gospel reading shows us a woman from Canaan, who was not an Israelite, and hence not part of the Chosen People of God. She seems to have known something of the Jewish faith, because she called Jesus the “Son of David”, and she came to Christ asking for a miracle. Nevertheless, his disciples treated her with disdain, as was the practice for Jews dealing with Gentiles. The Lord tested her faith by apparently refusing to grant her petition, but she persisted. Finally, Jesus not only granted her the miracle, but gave her words of high praise: “O woman, great is your faith!” Compare that to his words to Peter that we heard just a few days ago: “O you of little faith!”

Good and bad people are to be found everywhere. We cannot judge by the circumstances of their lives, whether it be their sex, national origin or religious beliefs. It is important to respect people of other Christian denominations, and those of other faiths as well. However, this fact should also motivate us all the more to share the gift of our true Catholic faith, so that others can receive the full strength and light of God’s grace which is not found anywhere else. True love for all people requires our spiritual and material support for the missions and for ecumenism. May God grant that someday we may all be one in the Church, which is His Body, to the glory of God the Father.

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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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3 Responses to Faith can be found in many places – homily for August 3, 2011

  1. A Reader says:

    Father, Thank you for this post. It gives me a lot to think about. I’m glad I stumbled upon it. From things that have happened in my life recently, I’ve been contemplating how I hate to be judged. And, yet, it is seemingly impossible to not judge or be judged. We compartmentalize people so that we can make sense of things. Understand them. Because we do not have time to personally know everyone.

    It is safe to conclude some things based upon appearance – because some things are clearly evident – For example, you can generally tell that someone moridly obese eats a lot, someone driving a porsche and dressing in fine clothes is rich, etc. Moreover, if you are around the person(s) longer, you can detect things from their walk, mannerisms,actions, etc. Is it “judgmental” to discern such things? Or, just reality?

    I am sure there is a mix of good and bad in all of us. It is hard to see people “through God’s eyes”. Particularly, if their internal spiritual life is not something we are privy to. We can only deal with them based upon external observations.

    Yes, there is a need for ecunmenism. Acedia and tristitia are perhaps the devil’s greatest weapons today. However, there are also many warnings about who to associate with in the Bible. For example “Children, Let no one deceive you. The person who acts in righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.” There is right and wrong. Good and evil. We must avoid “the near occassion of sin”.

    And, so my questions to you are: How do you know when to avoid sinners or try to help them? And, if you do attempt to help them, when to quit expending energy on tying to help a particular person who is dragging you down big time and continues to repeat the same sins over and over again despite your best efforts to help them “receive the full strength and light of God’s grace”? Basically, cut your losses. Protect yourself and your own well being.

    • Thank you for your comment! You bring up some important points.

      Certainly, there are some things that we can discern about people without being judgmental. There are times when it is obvious that someone eats too much, drinks too much alcohol, or wastes money on gambling, or leads a gay lifestyle, for example. It is not wrong or judgmental to recognize that someone’s behavior is objectively disordered (although even there we need to be really sure we are not drawing unwarranted conclusions from extrapolation and rumor). That said, it is often inappropriate to share these conclusions with other people unless there is a real need, or some real utility in doing so in order to protect others.

      However, it is usually not our place to judge why someone does what they do, or to conclude that “so-and-so has x problem, so they’re going to hell”. As you say, we are not privy to what goes on inside their heads. Only God knows their circumstances, their struggles, and their intentions. Sometimes people can truly believe in God and want to do what is right, and yet be profoundly confused, and/or suffer from psychological disorders, and/or from very negative past experiences, that have affected their ability to respond appropriately to the challenges that life presents to them.

      As for knowing when to avoid sinners and “cut your losses,” that’s a tough call. I think it’s a decision that we have to make after prayer and serious thought. It seems to me that you mention the right criteria: we have to protect our own spiritual well-being. If we see that our association with someone is damaging our own integrity, then we have to either change the nature of the relationship or cut it off. We also have to take into account whether or not we have a formal commitment to take care of the person; we have a different degree of responsibility for a spouse than for an associate at work, for example.

  2. A Reader says:

    Re: para 1 – Christians are in the minority by privately or publically “recognizing that someone’s behavior is intrinsically disordered”. By most people’s standards around the world – cohabitation is normal, birth control is normal, gay marriage is okay, divorce is no problem, abortion (while not preferred) is understood, pornography – no big deal, ……the list goes on…I would say most people would say that WE are “intrinsically disordered”. They “share these conclusions” all the time. And we – priests and laity – take it. Without saying a word. Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden should not receive communion. They are high profile, very outspoken supporters of abortion. Ted Kennedy should never have been granted an annulment. But, he was. These are just two examples that speak volumes. Likewise, with the laity, we allow our children to use birth control and cohabitate because we do not want them to get angry at us. We stifle our views on religion and politics at cocktail parties because we do not want to seem antiquated or offensive. Truth be told, often we are not equipped well enough to defend our positions intellectually – although we know in our hearts they are true. – Often acedia and tristia develop in this area of our lives…”Oh well, what can I do? Nothing. So I won’t try. It’s too hard. No one listens anyway….etc.” You know how the rationalizations go..

    Re: para 2 – I agree totally. – First part excellent. – Second part beginning with “Sometimes people can truly believe….” until the end, I have comments and questions………….This is exactly the problem. Most people do not want to hear anything that contradicts their beliefs. So, for example, if you try to reason with a daughter using birth control, she might say “That’s your belief, not mine. Since you do believe it to be a mortal sin, it would be for you. But, I have a good relationship with God and it is not a mortal sin for me. Because I don’t believe it to be true.” Gay friends believe they have a right to marry and view my beliefs as intolerant and prejudice. — The list goes on and on – This doesn’t even take into consideration the people that don’t believe in God at all. Or view Him as a crutch for the mentally weak and physically poor. As is the case amongst academia. Think Dawkins……..in sum, it is my opinion that MOST people are “profoundly confused, and/or suffer from psychological disorders, and/or from very negative past experiences, that have affected their ability to respond appropriately to the challenges that life presents to them.” They have hardened their hearts. And, it is easier to just let them be and give up on any type of conversion. Become a hermit crab and just seek out whatever supporters you can. Kind of like an underground doomsday type of scenario I suppose. The scope of the world’s problems are so great, it is at the point of no return. I frequently think – How can one person possibly make a difference? Unless there is some great catastrophe that snaps people back into the true “reality”, which is, we are children of God – on a journey to Him. And, there is only one true God. Not different gods to accomodate each of our different beliefs.

    Re: para 3 – We all have just a limited amount of time on earth. That is our greatest treasure. Well, that, and freedom. I do believe God judges us on how we use both. Our time. And our freedom. We must use all He’s given us on our time on earth to give Him glory. Be good stewards. The people I refer to do not damage my “integrity”. – It is more like they are always complaining or have some problem or crisis. Always. Always. Always. – They gossip too. – And, never take my advice. – I just am at a point in life where I’d rather avoid negativity and sinful people. – Which means I may spend a good deal of my life alone. – Which really is okay with me. – Is that wrong?

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