Believe – Follow
If we need to summarize all the readings that the Church invites us to reflect on this Sunday in only one word, what would it be?
In the first reading, Moses says to the people: “Obey the commandments of the Lord so you will be blessed.” Saint Paul affirms in the second reading: “All those who believe in Jesus Christ will be justified.” Finally, Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “Build your house on rock by putting my teaching into practice.” In my humble opinion, we can summarize all of these readings in one word: BELIEVE.
What does it mean by “believe”?
The first thing we need to say is that to “believe” does not simply mean to think that God exists. At times we hear people say: “I don’t believe in the existence of God!” Here I dare to say that 99.9% of those who say it do not know what they are talking about since proving that God does not exist is extremely difficult, even impossible ! It is more even difficult than denying the existence of love. When someone gets angry at or indifferent to hearing about God, this behavior is normally resulting from another reason; for example, he/she does not see things happen the way they expect.
Then what does “believe” mean?
Believe here has a twofold signification: have faith and follow. Having faith in God is admitting his sovereign position and indispensable role in our life. Following God is accepting and practicing his Word. These are two inseparable aspects of a same reality. Saint James says it succintly: “For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) Jesus tells us: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven…. You are the light of the world…. your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Mt 7: 21; 5: 14,16)
Then what would be a work considered in tune with God’s will? Would it be something big that attracts a lot of attention, such as prophesying, driving out demons or performing miracles? No, if there lacks one fundamental element (Mt 7:22-23). This element is the thing that made those who encountered the first followers of Jesus comment: “Who are these so-called Christians that love others so much?” Paul of Tarsus, who persecuted these first followers, after his conversion, proclaimed: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues… if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1Cr 13: 1-2) Evidently, this element is our love modeled on the love of God.
I know a senior (fourth year college student). Though he is quite intelligent, he is still mocked as “stupid” by his classmates who are less intelligent than him. He is intelligent because he can even teach his friends again the lesson they have just studied together. But he is considered “stupid” since he often “swims against the current”; for example, while his friends cheat in the exam, he refuses to do so. Someone asked him why he was not wise in this matter, he replied: “…the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.” (1Cr 1:25) That person shook his head and walked away while God nodded His head with a smile!
I also know a lovely lady. She is quite good at doing different things. Although she treats others with kindheartedness and gentleness, some people around her are jealous and wrongly accusing her of evil things. When I asked how she could still be patient and tolerant in all this, she responded: “God who “sees all secrets” knows me. As for the things of which I am wrongly accused, I let God be the judge. I only ask God to help me forgive them as He always forgives me.”
Dear friend, there are still people as such around us who continue to have faith in Jesus and follow Him faithfully. More than ever, the world needs generous and courageous witnesses of the Gospel. In the midst of darkness, let us light up a fire of peace, gentleness, forgiveness, tolerance, respect, honesty, patience, humility, courage and charity. In that way, we show to the world that we lovingly believe in Jesus.
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.