Saturday, August 7, 2021

Do you believe in me?


The following post is based on the readings for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time -Year B, especially Ephesians 4:30-5:2 and John 6:41-51

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.

Whenever I read that line from today’s gospel, I can’t help but think about Charlie Brown in one of Charlie Schultz Peanuts’ cartoons.

The cartoon begins with him standing all alone. Peppermint Patty passes by, and as she does, Charlie calls out to her, “Believe in me.” But she keeps going.

Next Snoopy passes by, and Charlie calls out, “Believe in me.” But Snoopy keeps going.

Next comes Lucy – and the same thing happens. IN the last frame Charlie is now sitting, all alone; his head in his hands and he is saying, “I just can’t get people to believe in me.”

I wonder if Jesus felt the same way when he told the religious leaders of the day, “I am the living bread come down from heaven.”

They did not believe in Jesus. They couldn’t grasp what Jesus was saying, despite knowing his miracles, his teaching, his presence; they simply dismissed his declaration as nonsense. “How can the son of Joseph say he has come down from heaven.”

The difficulty they had is that they relied on visible and tangible evidence. For them only the visible is knowable.

But Jesus ignores them and continues with a catechesis on the incarnation, that he has come down from heaven, he is the Son of God.

After reasserting who he is, and just before he speaks about his real presence in the Eucharist, he declares: Very truly I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.

In effect, Jesus is calling out all those who do not believe.   It is for this reason the Church chose the creed as our profession of faith, not a set of laws.

As Pope Benedict,  explained in his book, Introduction to Christianity, belief is the core foundation of our faith. Unlike Judaism where you express your faith by following the Law, or the world religions of the time, doing certain rituals, whether you believe in them or not, is all that matters.

For Christians, doing is secondary, belief comes first since it is our belief than enables us to transcend the visible to see the invisible, to see God, creator of all things visible and invisible.

Yet when Jesus says believe in me, there are so many of us are like Peppermint Patty, Snoopy and Lucy, and we carry on doing everything as usual, carefully relying on tangible and concrete ways of expressing our faith by following the Law and doing certain rituals.

But the Church, places the Creed, at the centre of the Mass. In the same way Jesus’ statement of belief is at the centre of the gospel today, the Creed, which we pray at every Sunday Mass (except during Covid) or at the beginning of the rosary,  is placed first to remind us that our faith is more than following the Law or doing specific rituals. It is about our faith in Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven as living bread for us.  

Our Church Fathers when writing the Creed, they left out the do’s and don’ts, not because the Law and Rituals are not important but rather as Saint Paul speaks about in the second reading, those who have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, those who believe in Jesus as the Son of God, will seek to imitate God, desiring to live in love, as Christ loves us; it is this belief in Christ that will remove.  all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling, and malice. It is our belief  in Christ that will move us to be kind to and one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”

It is belief in Jesus, who came down from heaven as living bread, that we profess each time we say,  “Amen” as we receive him in the Eucharist  and the promise of eternal life.

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