HOMILY FOR NINETEENTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (B)

By Fr Lar O'Connor


Today I am going to talk about faith. Faith is at the core of both human life and Christian life. Our understanding of faith, over the years, has been weak. We believe in the articles of the Creed. We believe in the dogmas of the church. There is, indeed merit in doing so but it is not the heart of true faith in the person of God or his Son, Jesus Christ.

I am convinced that John in his gospel gives us a basic insight that enriches faith. He talks about believing in, or rather into Christ. John the Baptist says very clearly, “Anyone who believes in (into, towards) the Son, has eternal life.” There are other examples in the discourse of the Bread of Life that we heard last week. “It is my Father’s will that whoever sees the Son and believes in (into, towards) him, should have eternal life, and that I should raise that person up on the last day.” We also remember the words from last Sunday’s Gospel. “I am the bread of life, No one who comes to me will ever hunger, no one who believes in (into, towards) me will ever thirst.” It is very difficult to translate the little Greek word eis into English. It implies life and movement. It is moving towards Jesus; it is coming to Jesus.

When a couple, say “Yes” to each other on their wedding day they are implying the following: I trust you, I find you reliable, I know that I can place my life in your hands, and so I commit myself to you for life, I not only trust you, but I entrust myself to you. That is a massive act of faith on the part of the couple. Christian faith is of the same nature. We trust God, we are certain that he is trustworthy and so we commit ourselves to him and entrust ourselves and our total lives to him. There is much more to this faith commitment than believing in doctrines or articles of faith in the creeds, although they have their place.

Faith is the foundation base of all our relationships. If we are not truly committed to a beloved, the relationship will not survive for long. The same is true of our relationship or friendship with God. Today’s Gospel makes it very clear. “Everyone who believes has eternal life.” That is Jesus' way of saying that the believer at the present moment has eternal life or an ongoing relationship with Jesus and with God. Eternal life is not just about the future. It is also about the present.

Faith is a personal human decision. The response of faith to Jesus revelation is my responsibility and decision. Still in today’s Gospel it is evident that God is with us and supports us in that decision. “No one can come to me, unless drawn by the Father who sent me.” Grace and faith go together. We do not understand exactly how. God may touch us and influence us internally or spiritually. But his grace can also reach us through our families and our faith communities. If we are alert we can detect the grace and influence that assists us to be people of faith on the road of eternal life. It may be a word, it may be a story, it may be a living example, like that of a parent, which inspires us and helps us to renew and sustain our faith throughout our lives. Graces come in various shapes. When we are alert and responsive, grace can exercise a great influence.