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.

Membership.

But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.

The words membership and identity are hot terms in these days. That said, they have been terms used throughout history to impose or self-impose a sense of communal belonging. 

In some cases, membership and identity were imposed upon others as a result of prejudices – in an accusatory manner – to differ the other from self, to reduce people’s humanity. In other cases, we have taken on our own memberships and definitions of identity.

If we took a moment to pull out our wallets and purses, we could quickly list some of our memberships. Here are some of mine: SEFCU member, NY driver, PACC member, AARP member (how did that happen?), BJ’s Club member, and others. A quick look at someone’s Facebook – memberships and identity markers abound. Where in all of that is our Jesus card?

The most significant sign of our belonging to Christ is that we bear markers that cannot be reduced to a card or social profile.

Our communal membership, our mutuality, our identity as Christians starts with that which was written on our souls at Baptism-Confirmation, our regeneration, from which our membership and identity as family, as brothers and sisters permeates our entire being and way of living.

Jesus, joined with His disciples as recounted today, told them that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations. This statement directed His disciples to go out and bear witness throughout the world. With the gifts of the Holy Spirit and, as St. John’s letter describes, the keeping of His word, they grew the family of faith. Out of people of every nation, class, status, color, and gender the Church grew as family.

Faithfulness to Jesus does not make us individuals, separate from each other. Rather, we are defined by our belonging, our obligation to God and each other.

We, the people of the Church, are not a separate people, each on his or her own path who just happen to get together for a moment. Instead, our getting together in worship is sign and symbol that we belong to God, that He belongs to us, and that we belong to each other. God infuses us with a grace to see beyond self to the family. He causes us to share with the Body of Christ as a symbol – a sacrament – of our love and of each person’s dignity.

In today’s Psalm we hear, for you alone, O LORD, bring security to my dwelling. This is not just our home, a physical structure in which we reside. Rather, the term my dwelling refers to our house, the place we reside together. He secures us in the family of faith and calls us to show our Jesus card by being “witnesses of these things” and bearing perfected love.

Power of together.

God said, “let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.”

The early Church understood the power of community. The Book of Acts tells us, right from the get-go, after Jesus’ Ascension: All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer. In other words, they were together, of one heart and mind, one in prayer, one in love and support for each other. Even in the face of all they feared, they were together as One in the Lord! 

Pentecost came and thereafter the community grew. People were added, not at distance, but in community. Led by the Holy Spirit, a pattern of life developed: They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life… All who believed were together and had all things in common; Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We may find it hard to fathom, but they could not get together by phone, Skype, Zoom, or Facebook. They could not support each other by sending a check. In fact, to learn from the Apostles, to pray, and to do what Church does, required them to be together. This togetherness brought them a power and influence beyond human comprehension.

What did this togetherness do? It brought them favor with all the people, i.e., the people saw their goodness, it was apparent and every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. People wanted part of what the Church had and were brought to salvation in Christ exactly because of the together they observed. That’s real power, power from together.

Now, many a preacher could launch into the lack of togetherness in today’s world and heap laments on all of us, but it is not true. The vestiges of the early Christian together life, that power, remain still today.

It starts here in our together and the together we have with every Sunday worshiping Christian. It comes from our baptism into the one body of Christ. It comes from our sharing in the bread and cup, the Lord undivided.  It comes from our reading the Acts and Epistles and reading the ‘you’ therein as the plural ‘you.’

From here, we bring the symbols and signs, the sacrament of together to the world as families. This is where our Christian growth, maturity, and discipleship are most often seen. It is the place from which will come favor with all the people. And those who are being saved. It is what we specially celebrate today.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This month, along with the celebration of the Solemnity of the Christian Family, we also celebrate Heritage Sunday (October 18th). Why? Reading through the documents created in the Church’s organizing years we see so many references to humanity, established in nations, to be bearers and sharers of the gifts God has given them. In the Tenant and Aims Document it is recorded: “The most important objective of the Church… is to maintain, enrich and develop the life of God in the soul of man…” Likewise, the Confession of Faith, our Creedal Document. Familiarize yourself with these statements, for they are a call to us and to the world. We are to recognize the dignity and value of each person and nation in their contribution toward helping us know God. These documents from the early 1900’s a sure cure to the inequality we still face today. We are not called to division, but to celebrate each other in unity and equality. We celebrate heritage because God has given us gifts, attributes, and experiences that when shared adds to our collective knowledge of God. A paraphrase of the Preamble to our Constitution sums this up: “Religion is the source of life and regeneration. Religion [that] possess the character of a nation [transmits innate] moral principles from which we achieve real freedom and stature.” As we celebrate let us each experience God more fully in each other and in what we share of ourselves.

October, our next jam packed month of events and opportunities. We bless pets on Sunday, October 4th. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Christian Family, a feast unique to our Church as well as Heritage Sunday. We will pray the Rosary every Wednesday evening in church and virtually. And … Fr. Jim is in the kitchen cooking up a yummy take-out/take-away American Goulash Dinner for Sunday, October 25th. Your efforts at discipleship and evangelism are drawing people to church – keep up the good work in the ministries you each have. There are some great prayers for family and our nation and a wonderful reflection on Certainty in God.

Read about all it in our October 2020 Newsletter.

What do I say?

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen…”

Have you ever served on a Board of Directors? Certainly, our Parish Committee members do. It is an honor to serve as well as an interesting and challenging task. I have served on many Boards of Directors. Looking at my old resume, at least eight. One of the most interesting was my service with our homeowner’s association.

Some communities have a homeowner’s association. There are a set of rules and regulations you agree to when you buy your home. You pay some sort of annual dues that take care of maintenance in the neighborhood. These associations are governed by an annually elected Board of homeowners.

Being an accountant by training, I usually get selected to be the Treasurer of any Board I am on. Yep, they elected me treasurer. What did we do? We made sure common areas were mowed, our ponds were properly attended to, and that homeowners followed the rules they agreed to. If people wanted to make changes to their homes, they would have to seek approval. Generally, mundane stuff. Mundane until there was a problem.

The part that got the heads of the Board members shaking was when people would come to the Board with their little disputes. My neighbor’s grill sends smoke into my yard. You get the picture. Our general answer was – Talk to your neighbor. That never seemed to work. 

It is hard to talk with someone if they’re headed in the wrong direction. What to say? We have trouble doing it with those closest to us, and here Jesus tells us our obligation is toward the whole family of faith, to call people back to faithfulness.

There is a distinction and a caution. The distinction – our obligation is toward members of the Christian community, not to the worldly. If people are members of the Christian family, we have the same understanding of who we must be, and we can call them back. The caution – we refrain from judging. Because someone is heading in the wrong direction does not mean they are bad or evil.

What do I say when a believer goes off track? We are to seek after them like Jesus seeks after the lost sheep, with love and compassion. We are to call people back to faithfulness, remind them of what we hold in common as the regenerated. Let us make every effort in calling those who stray back to God’s standard and to live faithfully ourselves.

This week’s memory verse: “And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 6:18
  • 10/13 – Proverbs 22:6
  • 10/14 – Genesis 2:24
  • 10/15 – 1 John 4:7
  • 10/16 – Ephesians 3:14-15
  • 10/17 – Acts 2:39
  • 10/18 – Joshua 24:15
  • 10/19 – John 17:21

Pray the week: Lord, bless and prosper every family united with You. Draw those who do not know You so that they share in our inheritance.

Merry
joymas.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth.

Merry joymas! We still have 72 days until the Solemnity of the Nativity, till Christmas. We are currently living in the secular season of Hallowthanksmas.

The Urban Dictionary defines this time as: “the holiday celebrating the most wonderful time of the year, October through December. It is a time of great warmth, sharing, parties, and of great American commercialism. People complain about overlapping holidays, but why? Embrace it as Hallowthanksmas!”

Those who wish to rile up the crowds un-celebrate this time by reminding us of Jesus being the ‘reason from the season’ and that we should always and everywhere wish everyone Merry Christmas … and not Happy Holidays. Churches jump on the bandwagon too, yet here we are, celebrating the Solemnity of the Christian Family in mid-October with scripture taken from a gospel heard in the Christmas season. We must be weird. We aren’t on the frontlines saying let ‘Christmas be Christmas.’ Rather, we are placing ourselves in the middle of the Christmas story today.

In the great grace of the Incarnation, the Son of God places Himself squarely in the middle of the human experience. The fullness of His being as true God and true man shows God’s infinite love for us, His infinite mercy, justice and power, and the Divine wisdom of His saving action. Not to save and go, stop and shop, but to join Himself totally with us so that He could model the way forward, the way we can follow as His fellow human beings. The way of family.

Those posting the memes of Jesus being the ‘reason from the season,’ those little sayings we see online or hear in conversation, have stumbled on a bit of wisdom. Jesus is indeed the reason for the season, but not just Christmas, f or every season. He is the way and the model for each and every day.

Today we place ourselves in the midst of that young Holy Family. Today we recognize that His way is the way for the totality of our existence and experience. In the Incarnation, among all the aspects of our humanity, God, Who lives as family, chose family. As our opening prayer teaches: “through family life we learn to love and care for others, we are everyone’s kin.” Today we celebrate this great gift of God’s family way of life, the way Jesus modeled. The way we must live. Happy joymas!