The Witness That Flows From True Faith, 28th Saturday (I), October 21, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Saturday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pillar of Faith
October 21, 2017
Rom 4:13.16-18, Ps 105, Lk 12:8-12

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Throughout this week, the first of four in our biennial liturgical listening to the Letter of the Romans, we have been pondering the faith that makes us “right” with God, the faith that “ad-justs” us to his gracious, unmerited, initiative-taking action in our life. It’s faith that opens us up to receive God’s gift. It’s faith that is meant to flourish in love. To focus, as many of the Pharisees did on our fulfilling the works of the law, is to infect our Covenant with God with a certain pride, focusing on our action rather than on God’s. What’s supposed to happen is that we recognize God’s action in our life, and respond with faith in all that we do, including in the way that we relate to God in doing what and all he asked.
  • Today St. Paul focuses anew on the figure of Abraham, who was saved by faith well before God had even given the Mosaic law. Abraham believed in God and left Ur at 75. He believed in God when God said he would become the father of many nations, even though he and his wife were already AARP members, and kept on believing even though it would take 25 years for that promise of God to be fulfilled. He believed in God even when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, believing — as the Letter to the Hebrews stresses — that even if Isaac were slain, God would raise him from the dead, because precisely Isaac was the son of the promise. St. Paul says today that we are all called to be spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham by faith. “He is our father in the sight of God,” and his descendants shall be fundamentally those who imitate his faith, who receive from God the gift of faith and respond like Abraham.
  • This is a faith to which we are called to testify. In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks about that witness. Yesterday he was telling us not to fear the Pharisees or anyone who could just harm or kill the body. Rather he told us to fear God who could cast body and soul into Gehenna, while reminding us that we don’t have a harsh judge for a Father but one who counts every follicle and cares for us more than all the sparrows. If that’s the case, then we should boldly show our faith in public. Jesus affirms, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.” But that work is not a “work of the law,” understood as something coming primarily from us, but rather it is a faith-filled response to grace. This is what Jesus indicates when he says, “When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.” God himself will act to help us, but in order to receive that help, in faith we need to be open to receiving it.
  • The question is whether we are truly open. That’s what’s alluded to in the other part of the Gospel when Jesus says the mysterious words, “Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” Jesus, Mercy Incarnate, will forgive those who speak again him — probably because he knows they speak out of ignorance, like, for example, St. Paul prior to his conversion — but to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is fundamentally to say that one doesn’t need the Holy Spirit, one doesn’t need God, one is fine on one’s own, even to speak in defense of the faith before religious and civil authorities. In the Catechism, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the one unforgivable sin is described as impenitence: it won’t be forgiven not because God doesn’t want to forgive, but because he can’t, since we won’t allow him, either because we don’t think we need his forgiveness, or we don’t think he would forgive us, or we simply refuse to ask for it if he recognize he would forgive and we need it. But we can expand the notion of that blasphemy by saying that it’s the general category of those who think that they don’t need God’s help, or that God won’t give it, or who refuse to ask for what they know God would give.
  • God normally puts us in circumstances in which we will have the chance to grow in faith, just like he tested Abraham’s faith and Abraham passed that test. When we are in front of others, including hostile situations, it’s an opportunity for us to give witness together with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus said during the Last Supper in the words that are today’s Alleluia versicle. It’s a chance for us to open up in faith to God’s help. It’s a chance for us to become like Abraham.
  • Today we celebrate the Votive Mass of Mary, Pillar of Faith. She shows us how to do the opposite of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, but rather to cooperate fully and docilely. She was overshadowed with the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ annunciation and the whole rest of her life stayed under that shadow, even training the young Church in how to cooperate during the decenarium of prayer leading to Pentecost. She wants to help us to ask in faith for that help that God is always so ready to provide. We also anticipate tomorrow’s feast of St. John Paul II, and give God thanks for the way St. Karol Wojtyla showed us in our own lifetime the example of courage faith in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
  • “The Lord remembers his Covenant forever.” As we prepare to enter anew into the new and eternal Covenant, we thank God for that living memory, that holy zikkaron, and ask for the grace to receive and respond to this gift the way that Abraham, our Father in Faith, Mary, our Mother in Faith, and St. John Paul II all responded to the graces God gave them!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ROM 4:13, 16-18

Brothers and sisters:
It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.
For this reason, it depends on faith,
so that it may be a gift,
and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants,
not to those who only adhere to the law
but to those who follow the faith of Abraham,
who is the father of all of us, as it is written,
I have made you father of many nations.
He is our father in the sight of God,
in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead
and calls into being what does not exist.
He believed, hoping against hope,
that he would become the father of many nations,
according to what was said, Thus shall your descendants be.

Responsorial Psalm PS 105:6-7, 8-9, 42-43

R. (8a) The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations –
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
For he remembered his holy word
to his servant Abraham.
And he led forth his people with joy;
with shouts of joy, his chosen ones.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

Alleluia JN 15:26B, 27A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord,
and you also will testify.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 12:8-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you,
everyone who acknowledges me before others
the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.
But whoever denies me before others
will be denied before the angels of God.”Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will not be forgiven.
When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities,
do not worry about how or what your defense will be
or about what you are to say.
For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”