10 March 2008
Stellar homily at the 12pm Mass at St. Agnes. Deacon Allen rocks, tho I kind of prefer the unemotional Jesuit approach to academics (homilies in this case) compared to his more dramatic delivery, it was still outstanding.
Deacon Allen's homily was on Sunday's Gospel reading.
Everyone is quick to harp on Martha and on Thomas, the apostle. Martha was definitely a Type A personality, a bit of a worry wart. Since I'm in the maintenance portion of my 12-step program for Type A personalities, I can identify with Martha and have always felt slightly rebuked myself when Jesus chides her for spinning her wheels. Granted, her complaining is a bit tiresome. However, the Gospel reading from this Sunday paints Martha in a much different light.
We see in John 11:27, Martha replies to Jesus' inquiry:
"She saith to him: Yea, Lord, I have believed that thou art Christ the Son of the living God, who art come into this world."
Similarly, Thomas gets stuck for all time with the unfortunate adjective: doubting. However, we see that Thomas was also a man of great faith.
In John 11:16 it says:
"Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples: Let us also go, that we may die with him."
The point of the homily was to show that faith is not just an assent of the will ("as important as that is" according to Deacon Allen). Faith is more. It is a gift from God, an incredible grace we need to be open to. Deacon Allen said that faith is the confidence in a person.
For me, I understood it as similar to a non-religious person believing in natural law, assenting their will that they are a created being. I can know God exists, but have no relationship with Him or trust in Him. That is more the gift of faith.
Back to Martha and Thomas. They are showing incredible faith. Martha says that she believes (trusts) that Jesus is the Christ. Even Peter stumbled in this and the apostles themselves repeatedly messed up in understanding who Jesus was, what His mission was and what His kingdom was to be like. Martha nailed it. In fact, Haydock says she "breaks out into an act of perfect faith."
So did Thomas. He knew the dangers that awaited Jesus if he went to Jerusalem, was willing to go and to die with him...at least at that moment. John was the one who actually stuck it out, but Thomas came in a close second.
I was glad to read these passages again, as I have so many times, and actually see these people more clearly.
Then I got home and talked with a cousin I had been close with years ago. I got married and moved to Seattle and we lost touch. I was saddened to hear that she is estranged from her seven siblings and has left the Church for an evangelical parish. None of her siblings have remained in the Catholic Church. Several have been married numerous times and one just died from her addictions.
In many ways, my cousin lives the gospels better than I do. So, why would she leave the Church? In part it could be because I don't think she ever really heard the gospels being preached from the pulpit the way Deacon Allen did. I don't think she was catechised well, much like my entire generation.
Martha had perfect faith because she came to know Jesus. Many of my cousins have lost their faith -- lost confidence in Jesus and His Church. This is why it is important to instruct from the pulpit -- people need to be catechised to begin to have a relationship with Jesus. If people knew their Faith, then they could grow in that faith and be able to go against the grain and not be swept away. Like with Martha and Thomas, Jesus would become someone more real than just a notion or assent of the will.