Hope.

The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.

This Advent we focus on the promises of God. We have provided a handy follow along book of reflections and devotions covering thirty promises of God broken down under the categories of hope, peace, joy, and love. This week we reflect on God’s promise of hope.

First, let us cover what a promise is. A promise is an assurance that what is said will come to be. I am sure we have been assaulted in our lives by unkept promises, whether the kids forgot to clean up or take out the trash, a seller reneges on a guarantee, or more seriously a promise is broken at a level affecting our relationships.

Every broken promise hurts. Each affects our trust relationships. Assurance seems not so assured. But thanks be, we have a God Who provides promises we can absolutely count on. You see, God cannot lie. God, in His perfection, can only utter truth. As such, when God makes a promise, we have absolute and perfect assurance that His promise will be fulfilled.

God promised to give us hope. But what is hope? Hope is not the kind of wishy-washy thing we engage in day-to-day – I hope I win the lottery, I hope my ship comes in, I hope it doesn’t rain or snow. No, the hope God offers is a certainty about the future. In God’s promises of hope we have certainty that the things He said will come to pass and that impacts our lives in the present. If we know our future, how we live today changes.

Our study guide covers seven areas of hope promised by God. It helps us inspect our lives and see if we are living today as our future portends. The hope promises are these:

Light in the Darkness – Jesus is the Light. He helps us inspect those areas of darkness in us that need His cleansing light.

Renewed Strength – we do not have to struggle – God will come through on our behalf no matter the circumstance.

Hope and a Future – for those loyal to God, who follow His gospel way – our current situations are not our always situation. God has a plan and future waiting for us.

A Full Life and Eternal Life – It is life that is a gift now/today and awaits us eternally. This life cannot be taken away from us unless we allow it. This life was won for us in the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Anything is Possible with God – yes, God has no barriers unless we erect them through unbelief.

God Is Our Firm Anchor – He cannot be moved, and He gives us assurance. Let us be confident in our hope.

This week let us focus on our assured hope.

Ultimate Faith.

As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when He reached the Ancient One and was presented before Him, the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve Him.

We focused for months on strengthening our faith individually and collectively. Now it is time for the test. Wait, no one said there would be a test!

The fact is that the test comes each day. It comes in ways expected and unexpected. It comes amid conflict and at times of peace. The test is this: Who is in charge of my life, who is my leader, and who do I follow?

Oh, ok, that is easy – Jesus.

We think it is that easy, or at least it seems so in our minds. We want to believe that we are all for Jesus, all-in, dedicated disciples of our Lord. Let’s ask some hard test questions.

If I asked, how many of us consider ourselves patriotic citizens of the United States, I am sure most would raise their hands. As citizens, we may be, at any time, called into service, to even place our lives on the line for our country. While we might not be all too happy about the prospect, we would go and do it; it is our duty. But what about service to the Lord, to His Holy Church, the organization He established for His disciples? Would we place our lives on the line for faith in Jesus? Would we be willing to face ridicule to declare the name of our Lord and leader? Would we give up career, home, social status, financial solvency for Jesus?

Some consider themselves politically active. They are quick to throw shade and hate on opponents and rabidly support their political masters, never realizing that they are being used to promote agendas that are against their self-interest. Imagine if they threw off the shackles of political slavery and servitude and spent all that energy on promoting Christ with love and compassion for those who do not know Him. It would change the world. But Jesus would have to be their Lord and leader.

In all these cases, and so many others where our dedications and loyalties are screwed up, we need to assess and recalibrate. Is the Jesus on trial, tortured, mocked, shamed, tried, nailed to the cross my Lord and King? Is He worth my life, my all, my work and sustained effort, possible persecution, mockery, suffering and my potential martyrdom? 

The ultimate test of faith is how much I value Jesus’ kingship in my life. Who is in charge of my life, who is my leader, and who do I follow? Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.” Let is be so in each of our lives. Let us be those who belong to the truth and listen to His voice. For that is all that matters.

Strength of Faith.

“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

We are at the end of our Ordinary Time reflection on Strength of Faith. Our call to growth in strength of faith is unending – we need to work at it from minute-to-minute; that must not stop. Today we focus on what comes next. What is the outcome for those who are growing ever stronger in faith?

The concept of Christ’s return, the end of the ages, the final judgment is difficult for us. It may be in part because of what we do not know (especially the where and when). The bigger difficulty is our awareness that God’s justice must be satisfied, that we will have to stand before the whole world and be judged, our sins and failings laid bare. That freaks us out!

Of course, people have been playing on the final judgment for centuries. It ranges from freaky visions of the Blessed Mother appearing over tress and hills with dire warnings to certain people who tell us they have seen visions of the end – and we are all going to hell.

Human guilt is used as a powerful motivator to instill fear and to elicit, not necessarily change of behavior, but to engage in a sort of slavery to fear itself or to those who purvey fear. Unfortunately, some churches lead their members to a rollercoaster of fear and dread.

The life for those who are strong in faith is never one of fear and dread. Certainly, we are aware of our accountability before God. We sense our guilt, confess our sin, and resolve to re-enter the path of sanctification over-and-over. When we fall, we know that Jesus is there to lift us up and we do not take His mercy and helpful grace for granted.

The outcome for those who are strong in faith is right there in scripture: the angels [will] gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

Listen to the words of our prayers, the Propers of today’s Holy Mass. We hear words like incorruptibledelighthope that lies beyondeternal, and to “stand in peace and safety.” That is what awaits those strong in faith.

We see that the promise of our journey of growth in strength of faith is not fear but rather its opposite – confidence in victory. What Jesus Christ, our Lord, and very particularly our Savior has promised us will occur. We will be gathered in, we will undergo judgment, and we will rejoice in the heavenly kingdom. As Daniel heard, we will shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and shall be like the stars forever.

Strength of Faith.

A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 

We are near the end of our Ordinary Time reflection on Strength of Faith. In these last two weeks Jesus’ message focuses on the end times, the eschatological moment. Considering His immanent return, we are to offer Him our complete surrender. We are to walk the gospel path even more closely. We are to redouble our efforts in strengthening our faith by placing our full trust in our heavenly Father.

Jesus has been teaching in the Temple. His subject, in the passage from Mark today, is on strength of faith. Jesus compares the weakness of self-interested faith exhibited by Israel’s religious leaders and then points to a poor woman and her total gift, the giving of all she had.

God measures our strength of faith, not in the amount of stuff we do, not by counting, but by the totality of our spirit in doing it. We are measured by how deeply and completely dedicated we are to the gospel way.

Jesus well knew, while teaching in the Temple precincts, that He would completely surrender Himself to His Father’s will in just a few days. His all would be given through the torture of the Passion and His death on the Cross. He also knew that He had to show us the way, and He did so through the example of the widow’s absolute surrender and total trust in God.

Jesus points to the religious leaders of the day. They were honored in everyday language. They were given the head seats at the synagogue and at feasts. The people even stood as they passed by in their flowing white robes. Jesus condemns them for being self-intoxicated, men who even abused their privileges by sponging off the poorest, literally devouring them.

Here in contrast comes the devoted widow. She had nothing but her last two coins. Remember, widows depended on others for support. She had no support network, no friends to help her out. What she had she had, and… she gave it to God. That is an act of Strength. That is an act of Faith. That is trust in the heavenly Father. Her poverty exhibited in the coins she gave, the smallest minted in Palestine, a copper “lepton” worth one eighth of the smallest Roman copper coin, a “quadrans” worth a penny.

Others were literally throwing in (eballon) their gifts, like a rich man burning money. Wrapped in their security blanket, they thew in their ten percent without a thought.

The nature of the widows gift was not in its money value, it was in her total giving. Her placing it (ebalen) showed the motivation behind her gift was total commitment to and trust in God.

As we approach the last days, as we look forward to Jesus’ return, let us live like the Widow – all in.

And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.

What happens when we die?

It is one of the greatest questions of all time and inquiring minds want to know: What should we expect after we die? What will it look like? Yet, it is exceedingly difficult to answer. No one has come back and filled us in. But we do have guideposts to inform us.

We do know that there are absolutes, heaven and hell. Scriptures tell us that much. We know heaven is paradise and that it is reserved for the holy ones of God. Revelation gives us a picture of what heaven will look like, a place with no more mourning, weeping, pain or fear. Jesus also gave us examples of what Gehenna will be like, a fiery garbage dump where those who lived lives apart from God wail and gnash their teeth. We know from the story of Lazarus the beggar that there is an uncrossable boundary between heaven and hell. Those things give us a fruitful heads-up, a forewarning that no – everyone does not just go to heaven. To say so is in fact heresy.

We know our path starts with faith, faith in Jesus Christ. We need to confess our sins and give ourselves completely to Him. Through baptism and our cognizant profession of faith we are members in His body, and we are washed in His blood. From there, we embark on the path of sanctification – the process of becoming more and more like Jesus. That is why we can never take a break or slowdown in following Jesus. There is always more to become.

This process of becoming and growing in faith is so important because it is an act of caring and cognition – how we live matters. If everyone just goes to heaven, then why Church, why prayer, why the sacraments, why do anything good, why care. If I’m going there anyway nothing really matters. Yes, how we live, how faithful we are matters. How we place our trust in the Father, how we follow the Son’s gospel path and become more like Him, and how we live out the promptings of the Holy Spirit in Strength of Faith one-hundred-percent matters.

Indeed, something happens when we die. We do not just disappear.

The Church, throughout is history, has come up with different theories about what happens after death. At one time, it was thought that the soul did not actually leave the earth for three days – thus one of the purpose of wakes and the funeral on the third day, as well as the Absolution of the Dead. 

Rome placed its bets on the idea of Purgatory, a place of purification – imagine a car with a whole bunch of souls saying – are we there yet? The suffering that leads to purification is achieved in the waiting, in the expectation of desire and longing. The important thing here is the theme of waiting.

The Orthodox do not have any one theory, instead stating that anything we think about the afterlife is ‘speculative theology,’ a theology that tries to define the future by what we do know about God. For this reason, in Orthodoxy, there is diversity in the teachings on what happens after death. This diversity is perfectly okay because attempts at explanation are feeble before the mystery of God. Key concepts are that the soul has awareness, does not lose it identity, and awaits the resurrection of the body because, like Jesus, both body and soul are equally important. Note again the theme of waiting.

There is quite a bit of diversity of thought about what happens immediately after death among Protestants. Most believe that we retain our unique identities after death. Some denominations believe the soul goes immediately to be with Christ in heaven, awaiting the Day of Judgment and a resurrected body. This echoes Paul – but remember that Paul was speaking to Christian communities that were living out their faith deeply and wholeheartedly, often to the point of sacrificial loss. Other Protestants suggest there is an intermediate time of “soul sleep,” an unconscious waiting for the resurrection.

Do the dead go to Sheol – the Jewish concept of a holding tank for souls? No, for Christ emptied that place following His death on the cross.

Further, for our study, Christianity never has taught reincarnation. There is no return trip. While fanciful, it is totally against scripture. Our lives are a what you see is what you get matter.

So why do we pray for the dead, and what is today’s Observance all about?

The Latin phrase Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi literally means “the rule of prayer [is] the rule of belief.” More simply said, we pray what we believe. We pray for the departed based on scriptural instruction and most importantly because of the mystery of the afterlife. We pray for the dead because we believe they need our prayer in a period of waiting.

In the Book of Maccabees (2 Maccabees 12:39-46), Judas Maccabee takes up a collection so prayers will be said for some of his soldiers that had died. Factually, the soldiers were being faithful in fighting for Israel, while at the same time they were unfaithful; their dead bodies were found to be holding idols of false gods. 

And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought Him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten… And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection… It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.

We pray because God left us an instruction to do so in Scripture. We pray because we do not know. We pray through the mystery of God, seeking His mercy for our departed loved ones in a time of waiting. Can those not perfectly pure enter heaven by our prayer? Can their sins be forgiven? Is there a place and time of waiting? Our prayer says that is true, and as such we pray and we offer Holy Masses for our departed loved ones, making up by our actions where they had fallen short in life.

This day, in the end, calls us not just to prayer for the dearly departed, but also to an honest evaluation of our own spiritual state, to measure where we are on the road, and toward what destination so that by living genuinely Christian lives and following Jesus’ gospel path more closely we may reduce any time we need to wait in getting there.

Strength of Faith

“Blessed are… Blessed are they…”

One day a man was walking through a beautiful church building with his four-year-old son. As they walked, the young boy looked around. He stopped and was curious about the stained-glass windows that looked so beautiful with their bright colors and the dappled light they shed. As he looked at the windows, he asked, “Who are all the people in the windows, daddy?” “They are Saints,” said the father. “Who are Saints daddy?” the kid asked. The father was stuck. How was he going to explain who saints were to a four-year-old boy? As the boy was still looking up at the windows and the father was still wondering how he would explain who saints are, the young boy suddenly shouted out, “I know who saints are daddy; they are the people that the light shines through.”

Sometimes we mistakenly think of saints in the same way we may think of angels or, at the very least, only the very select few from the past such as Saint Francis or Saint Anthony, or the Apostles, Evangelists, and many of the Church Fathers.

In recent years, some Churches have been cranking out new saints like factories make cars. In past ages, it was very hard to get to that level. It required far more than holding an office or making up a vision; it required a life of heroic virtue.

The problem with all these formulaic approaches to “sainting” someone is that the approach makes it too easy or process oriented to be a saint. By doing that, the faithful get confused, and we either walk around feeling completely unable to reach sainthood or thinking, hey, I am already there, I don’t even have to do anything.

So, who is a saint and how can I possibly get there?

Saints are human. Ok, we got that. We are human.

A saint is a follower of Jesus Christ.  Ok, we got that. We follow Jesus.

Saints were fishermen, students, farmers, tent makers, doctors, teachers, carpenters, former prostitutes, extortionists, outcasts, robbers–you name it. Saints were both rich and poor. They were orphans or members of large families. Ok, we got that. We come from many different backgrounds.

Saints were born again people, or as we refer to it, were regenerated by the Holy Spirit. If we have had that conversion experience in our lives, we understand that. We were certainly changed inwardly and outwardly by our baptism-confirmation where sacramental regeneration took place, and somewhere along the line we knowingly and with full intent confessed our sins and offered our lives completely to Jesus. This is where we start seeing the separation between the casual churchgoer, or the I got baptized and the I’m never going back there crowd, and faithful believers whose lives have been transformed.

Saints were called and they answered by living lives that were holy and extremely dedicated both in terms of attitude, and in the sense of being set apart. This is also where we also see some separation. In fact, we are all called by Christ through the Holy Spirit. The answer to that call, the saying yes to God is what makes the difference. Am I one who is living a holy and dedicated life? Am I all about Jesus, or have I left things in the way of holiness and dedication? The answer tells me where I am on the road to sainthood.

Saints were still real people – ok we are human, we already answered that – but that is not what this means. What this means is that saints were far from perfect. Saints weren’t infallible. Sometimes saints disagreed with one another. Just think of all the mistakes the Apostle Peter made… or John… or James. What made the difference for them was not their sin and failings, it was the fact that they learned as they went. They learned from their mistakes. They learned by allowing Christ to forgive them, by accepting Christ’s forgiveness and moving on in Christ. Bottom line, the mistakes of their earlier lives trained them not to do it again. They did not persist in sin; they did not let themselves remain in ignorance. They would not allow sin to stand and confronted it both in themselves and in the world.

We are real people. We are on the same journey… the journey of following Jesus… the journey of learning to be more and more like Jesus… which is a process of constant growth in Strength of Faith where we become more and more faithful, loving, and indeed vocal in calling others to Jesus. We do not let judgmentalism, condemnation, and prejudices take root in us, nor do we stand for it in others. If I am on that road I am on the road to sainthood.

We are in a process, a process of becoming ones who allow the light to shine through them. We are in the process of becoming ones of whom it can be said, Blessed are they… 

We have checked the boxes, human, Christ follower, from many backgrounds, regenerated in the Spirit, called, and a real person who is learning from mistakes, acknowledges forgiveness, and doesn’t let it happen again. What next?

All the words in both Greek and Hebrew that are used in the Bible and are translated into the word “saint” all have the same definition. According to Scripture, a saint is sacred, holy, pure, blameless, dedicated. If you look at the lives of the saints of old, you will see that they met that definition. So can we.

Of course, the word “holy” doesn’t mean “perfect,” it means “set apart,” “set apart to serve God.” Will we pledge as we did in baptism-confirmation to be “set apart?” 

The only way we can be “pure and blameless” is through the blood of Jesus shed on the Cross covering and washing away the stain of our sins. Will we pledge to trust in Jesus’ sacrifice which washes away our sins and makes us pure and blameless?  

But “dedicated.” Dedicated is a whole different level. Yes, a saint is dedicated. Yes, a saint may fall, but a saint gets back up again. Yes, a saint may fall into sin, lose their temper, hurt another by word or deed, but a saint asks God for forgiveness, accepts that forgiveness and asks God for the strength to grow in love. That’s what it means to be “dedicated.”

A dedicated follower of Jesus Christ may not always love their enemies, but that is their goal. When they find that they cannot love their enemies, they ask God for God’s love to overcome their anger and hatred. When they find it difficult to pray for those who mistreat them, a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ prays for those who mistreat them anyway. If a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ finds it nearly impossible not to judge another person, they admit this failure to God and ask God to enable them not to judge. They pray to God to help them to love all persons, no matter who that person is, what they look like, or how they live their lives. And because dedicated followers of Jesus Christ are called to “turn the other cheek,” and if someone takes their coat–they are to give their shirt as well… they are to pray to God that they don’t demand “special rights and privileges” from the world and from other people. Saints are not to take others to court, blast other people in the media or from the pulpit, or from the ballot box. There can be no doubt that this kind of living, the lifestyle we are called to is as radical as it can possibly get…and no one gets it completely right, but can I pledge to dedicate and re-dedicate myself to walking the gospel path?

It’s been said that “A saint is someone whose life makes it easier to believe in God.” A saint is someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like – someone who lets God’s light, in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit shine through them. The four-year-old was right. We can do that. In fact, we are on the road to becoming saints. Let us then close any gaps and live what we are called to be – saints – and so join with Mary, the glorious band of Apostles and Martyrs, and all the saints around God’s throne. Amen.

Strength of Faith.

And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” 

Over the months of Ordinary Time, (and we only have two Ordinary Sunday’s left) we spend our time dedicated to growth. We focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk the gospel path in Strength of Faith.

Over the past few months, we have encountered several instances of Jesus being questioned. On August 29th, we read that the Pharisees and some Scribes questioned Jesus on how his disciples ate their food – not strictly following the rules of the elders. On October 3rd, we read of Jesus being confronted by the Pharisees on the question of Divorce. Chapter 12 of Mark’s gospel narrative is replete with this questioning, with challenges.

The gospel writer was using these illustrations from Jesus’ life to help the first Christians, who were predominantly Jewish converts, understand Jesus and make sense of their faith. Should Jewish people pay taxes to Rome? What should one expect to happen in the resurrection? And today, what is the most important commandment?

In most of the cases we sense conflict and challenge; it was Jesus being confronted by those trying to entrap Him. Today, something different happens. A young Scribe breaks through the conflict to have a dialog with Jesus, to understand the nature of God better. The young Scribe as fully recorded in Mark 12:28 came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well He had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”

The young Scribe sees the truth, realizes where the answers are, and in Strength of Faith overcoming societal pressures, peer pressure, and the duties of position approaches Jesus. That is what Strength of Faith does, it leads us to breakthroughs.   

Jesus recognizes the breakthrough and notes that the young Scribe is “not far from the kingdom.” The Scribe understands that doing right involves a total dedication to God, a carrying out of these great commandments of love, and its value. Living in this loving relationship with God and the other replaces burnt offering for the remission of sin since love overcomes sin and draws people away from sin.

Philo, the Jewish philosopher, argues that those who only love God or only love others are “half-perfect in virtue. The perfect have a good reputation in loving God and humans”

Jesus calls us to perfection of life by breaking through whatever holds us back from fully loving God and the others we encounter. To love requires we break through to do all we can to proclaim Jesus and serve our brothers and sisters.

Strength of Faith

On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.

Over the months of Ordinary Time, (and we only have three Ordinary Sunday’s left) we spend time dedicated to growth. We focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith.

Last night, on the Grand Ole Opry, Carrie Underwood sang “Jesus Take The Wheel.” The woman in the song had a barTimaeus experience as she shouts out in despair and hope: Jesus, take the wheel!

“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me. Jesus, son of David, have pity on me! Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!!!”

We humans by design have a natural fight or flight response. Our adrenaline kicks in and sometimes we can even accomplish superhuman feats. 

We see this as each of these people call out to Jesus. The experience of barTimaeus and the woman in the song are testimony to the coordination between our spiritual and physical lives as we hear them call out with all that they are.

In both cases these people find themselves in a very empty place. They are alone, apart, scarred, fearful, and in need of great and immediate help. In both cases they cry out to Jesus. Their bodies and spirits are united in seeking His help. In both cases, with barTimaeus the factual case, the plea is answered.

Did these people live in Strength of Faith? 

For barTimaeus, he absolutely lived by faith. He knew that Jesus could save and heal him.  It is why he called out despite being criticized. As such, once Jesus summoned him, he thew aside his cloak – which was both garment and symbol for a beggar who depended on others and went to Jesus. He knew he wouldn’t need that cloak and that he would see. He was fully trusting by the Strength of his Faith.

In the song, after the car is saved, the woman prays, first seeking forgiveness and then pledging amendment of life. She certainly had faith, but no real Strength of Faith. She had not been living faith; hers was dead and cold. She was blocking faith out until the urgency of the situation.

What comes next for each of them is what is most instructive for us and exemplary. Both barTimaeus and the woman moved forward continuing then to live in Strength of Faith. barTimaeus went on to follow Jesus. The woman, freed, recommitted to Strength of Faith.

Both had their shout of plea changed to a shout of proclamation. Both went on to witness boldly to Jesus (even when people told them not to) with all they had. So must we.

Strength of Faith.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith.

We have talked for many weeks about Strength of Faith. We have seen the way people approached Jesus and how He told them to have faith, to not doubt. We have seen various ways we can put Strength of Faith into action and how we share our Strength of Faith with each other and the world. We have contemplated the ways we might invite others to experience God, right here, with the confidence that comes from Strength of Faith.

Today, we are presented with a reflection on the source of our Strength of Faith. Strength of Faith comes solely from Jesus, from doing what He did.

Wait a minute, you mean I can be like Jesus, I can live the way He did?

As we heard in today’s gospel, James and John got it wrong. They were looking for the sort of strength that does not come from faith, but rather comes from position and status. In short, Jesus tells them that they will also have to face what He had to face: “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” If you want to be like Me, you must be — like Me.

The rest of the disciples become upset, not because of what James and John asked, but because they wanted the same. Jesus tells them all, you must stop thinking the way the world thinks, but rather be like Me, be humble, serve, suffer if you are called to do so, and know that your strength comes from Strength of Faith. It comes from the sort of faith that says I am less so that God can be shown to be more.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews fully understands human weakness. The writer also knew that he himself was weak, had failed, had sinned, was constantly tempted by the desire for power and status. Facing what we all face, knowing what we all know, he arrives at an answer: My Strength of Faith comes from being most like Jesus Who was like us and did not sin.

You see, Jesus was tested exactly as we are. His humanity faced all we face. In fact, He was attacked constantly – yet He did not sin. He overcame. So can we.

You mean I can be like Jesus; I can live the way He did? The answer is yes. We are called to confidence, to walk and act in the Strength of Faith that tells us we can live as Jesus did.

Strength of Faith

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. We are focusing on our growth in Strength of Faith.

There are several ways of translating what Jesus says to Mary and Joseph. Our scriptures read today recount Jesus saying: “I must be in My Father’s house.” This can also be rendered “I must be about my Father’s business.” Literally, I must be in the things that are My Father’s—i.e., in His work.

It seems odd to us to have a twelve-year-old be so bold as to stay behind in a city of over a million people (especially at festival time), but some context helps.

A Jewish boy reaching the age of twelve, became ‘a son of the Law,’ and took upon himself the religious responsibilities which had previously been his parents. 

This marked moment shows Jesus’ maturity and His acceptance of those responsibilities, to learn, to study, to question, and penultimately to do His Father’s will. Jesus asserts that right in staying behind, not to contravene Mary and Joseph, but rather to grab unto an opportunity. 

In this opportunity He speaks a few words – His first recorded gospel words – words we are to take to heart and emulate – “I must be about My Father’s business,” I must do His work.

These words cause us to consider more fully not just the where of Jesus’ statement, Hey, I’ve got to hang out in the Temple because… but rather the what of His statement.

When Jesus says “must” He says that His doing is the on-going accomplishment of the necessary appointed work of the Father. He accepts His Father’s commands and continues forward in carrying out His duty. 

We, as the Christian family are called to be more than a presence in a place, church on Sundays. We are called to also share and increase the love of family between ourselves and in the world. We are to act in Strength of Faith in the carrying out of our kingdom mission, opening God’s loving family just as Jesus showed us.

The ties and connection of family go beyond place to the life – style we live. How do we style our lives? If we style them to be about our heavenly Father’s business, to doing His work, what we do in a place on Sunday, the worship, praise, and learning, bears fruit Monday through Saturday in the doing. We live and do as Jesus lived and did. We are in the Father’s work.