On the 11th of October this year, Pope Benedict declared this year as the year of faith for the whole Church. This is to celebrate the 50th year of the Second Vatican Council. According to the Pope in his Apostolic Letter Porta fidei (The Door of Faith), one of the main focus of this year’s celebration is “the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ”(2). In the light of this we are called to grow more and go deeper into the faith by the witness of our lives in our own particular situations and circumstances. The Pope said: “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy.” (7) Another focus of this year of faith is the new evangelization or proclaiming anew, or reclaiming the original message of the gospel through new ways and renewal. And again the Pope also appeals here to all of us believers as the witnesses and the proponents of this renewal. ‘The renewal of the Church’ the Pope taught, ‘is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.’ (6)
It is a big call for us. It is a big challenge for us because we are in the world when being the number one or being on the top of everything is the name of the game. We are in the world that being who we are is often identified with or even confused of what we have and what we do. We are in the world when the fullness of life is misunderstood as being the best in everything, or being the one on top, or getting the best in everything to the extent that we would never settle for being the next or the second.
And of course, the first thing to suffer from this current trend is our faith. For many in this day and age, faith is not just something private or personal. For many today faith doesn’t make sense anymore. It is so because faith tells us to be live humbly, simply and sincerely. Yet, everyday the opposite of humility, of simplicity and of sincerity are being laid out before us. Unnecessary pride, complexity of lifestyles, and lies are selling fast in the market of our global world.
We need Jesus Christ to re-direct us in our faith. We need to renew our belief in him as our Saviour. We need to rediscover the beauty of faith that is being given to us as gift by the Father. We need Jesus to remind us now as he reminded the two sons of Zebedee in our gospel today, that faith in him means following him in his acts of service, in his being a servant of all, and even in his death. We need Jesus to change our hearts into a heart like his- a heart the sympathizes with us in our weaknesses and limitations as we heard from the Letter to the Hebrews read today. We need Jesus who suffers with us and for us. We need him so much so that we would grow in our faith.
We therefore need to personally challenge our faith in Jesus. By this I mean we need to ask ourselves where is Christ in our lives. It means assessing our Christian life where are we now in our Christian journey. It means asking ourselves if we are still following the real Christ, the Son of God who is sent to us because of his love for us. It means asking Jesus what we can do for him, rather than daring him to do something for us whatever we ask of him as the brothers James and John did in our gospel today. Challenging our faith in Christ means re-thinking or to stop thinking that to be great is to be on top. It means following him in his obedience to the Father’s will rather than demanding so much from God to do some personal and selfish favour for us. Challenging our faith means making it more concrete and real in us by putting it into action.
Today the Church observes this day as World Mission Sunday. This is an opportunity for us to put some substance in our faith by sharing the wonderful gifts, resources and means we have to those who have less and to those who have none in other part of the world. Why do we have to do this as a Church? Why do we have to sacrifice a part of our life or a part of our selves for the sake of others? Why do we have to do this when it seems that we don’t get anything out of it?
The answer is why not? If we claim to be people of faith and proud of it, then we are to look through our windows. We are to look beyond our immediate surroundings. And we should do this in good faith. Triggered by the spirit of commercialism today we might ask: What assurance I have if I give in good faith?
Well today’s celebration in Rome is just one of those wonderful return that God would give us if we stand up for him till the end. Today the Church through the Pope is recognizing once again the heroic witness of some members in the Church of their faith in Christ. Pope Benedict is canonizing this very day seven new saints in the Church declaring them definitely as the new citizens of heaven and thus worthy of our veneration. These are people who were faithfully carrying out in their lives their faith in Christ, no matter what the odds were, no matter how difficult and risky it would have been for them, and no matter if it meant death for them. In 1883, Mother Marianne headed a group of sisters from New York to the Hawaiian Islands to put up a system of nursing care for people suffering from leprosy. Kateri Tekakwitha, daughter of a Christian Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father in upstate New York, will become the first Native American to be canonized. She was baptized by a Jesuit missionary in 1676 when she was 20, and she died in Canada four years later. Jesuit Father Jacques Berthieu, who was born in Polminhac, France, and was martyred June 8, 1896, in Ambiatibe, Madagascar. Peter Calungsod, a lay catechist born in Cebu, Philippines, and martyred April 2, 1672, in Guam. Father Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth for men and the Humble Servants of the Lord for women. He died in 1913. Carmen Salles y Barangueras, the Spanish founder of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. She worked with disadvantaged girls and prostitutes and saw that early education was essential for helping young women. She died in 1911. Anna Schaffer, a lay German woman who wanted to be a missionary, but could not because of a succession of physical accidents and diseases. She accepted her infirmity as a way of sanctification. Her grave has been a pilgrimage site since her death in 1925. (Source: CNS- Catholic News Service)
9. These are the witnesses of our faith. They might be living in a distant past but their example of living out the faith in their own ways, means and capacities are still relevant and still our call today. So if we say, we are people of faith, let’s show it in our actions. Let’s resolve to follow Jesus Christ faithfully as the aforementioned saints did, and resolve to share our resources to our neighbours in our global village. Let this be our resolution and our prayer. Amen.