WHERE IS YOUR FAITH?
Why are you so fearful? How is it that you
have no faith? Mark 4:40
PUTTING down her morning copy of the Los Angeles Times, a friend of mine recently remarked that she felt she was losing her faith because of all the priest abuse being reported on a daily basis. She was so shocked over these revelations concerning the church and some of its priests she actually considered not going to Mass anymore. Emphatically she shook her head and said she felt betrayed by the very people she valued most in her life and she thought the Church was filled with corruption. In good conscience she could no longer remain. I looked at her thoughtfully for a few minutes then quietly said into the silence, "Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?" She answered, "Yes, I most certainly do". Then I asked her, "Do you believe that by His shed blood, you now have access to His Father's Kingdom?" She nodded emphatically and said, "Of course I do". I then asked her "Then where is your faith? Have you misplaced it?"
IT is the popular belief that the enormity of acts perpetrated against our children were hidden behind the walls of our Churches. It is not only the sins committed, it is the duplicity which adds even more injury to the body of Jesus Christ. That is a bitter pill for us to swallow. And we will always feel the disappointment of seeing our religious leaders exposed on the very moral issues they preached about and reprimanded about in the confessionals. Those who were taken to prison in shame will haunt us for a long time. And the two priest suicides will always remind us of the fallibility of mankind.
THAT a few priests have forgotten God's laws and used their position to commit a sin does not change the validity of the Church. Although it has been tarnished, it can be made to reflect all the things Christ taught, except now we must do our housekeeping, purging it of all the things manmade and unnecessary for our walk with Christ. But we do not give it up. Through our faith we can pray to God and ask Him to help us make it pure again. If we can keep the faith during this life, there is a great day promised that we Christians can all look forward to, a day when everything will be made right, a day of perfection when we will live in glory with Jesus, our Savior and the Heavenly Father, and the pain and disappointments of this life will fade away. Our God whom we serve is a mighty God and able to deliver us through these troubling times, giving us the grace and strength sufficient to overcome a tragic situation.
2 Corinthians 5-7 tells us that "we walk by faith, not by sight". Faith is not something we can contain in a building. Faith is not about an obscure God that comes to us through a maze filled with manmade things that have no meaning. No, faith stands alone. Faith is the belief and the friendship that God writes on the hearts of His people who let Him into their lives. Faith is in knowing that the Father is always with us and will never ever leave us. Faith is that strong conviction that Jesus is alive, that Jesus died for ME and for YOU and will come again in glory to claim us. Faith is the knowledge that even though we cannot hold it in our hands, it is so strong a trust that men have died for it.
HEBREWS 11:1 defines faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. So what is faith in simplistic terms for us today? It's all about a man called Jesus. It's all about a place called Calvary. It's all about the belief that He kept His promise that He would rise from the grave, and it's all about that promise that we, too will rise again to spend a glorious eternity with Him. It has nothing to do with the sins of other people. Granted we must pray for those who have fallen into sin, pray that they confess their sins and pay the price our courts exact from them. Mathew 18:6 states "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depths of the sea." And again in verse 10 "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones" so it is clear that any offense toward a child is a grievous sin and must be dealt with through our courts on earth and most importantly be cleansed by the Heavenly Father. But God's amazing grace and forgiveness is always there for us, even for the ones who have sinned. If those priests who have done wrong to our children make things right with God by earnest confession, they, like us, will be welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven. That is God's promise and it extends to everyone.
WHEN bad things happen within the sanctity of our own Church, it is time to harden our faith by focusing on what Jesus did for us at the Cross. It is time to place a childlike trust in God, letting our faith be an acknowledgement of God and His Son. It is time to take another look at that Cross and what it stands for. It is time for those with weakened faith who have begun to drift away with disappointment to come back, to take another look at what the Church stands for, not allowing the antics of some to deter us. It is time to set aside our bitterness and frustrations knowing that it is only Satan trying to win more souls. Don't let him. Stay the course.
UNLESS we are rooted in a firm foundation the hopelessness that we feel can easily destroy what we thought we had; our faith. Those who abandon ship because of the deeds of others must concentrate on their own lives. There is something seriously and significantly missing in us if beliefs can be given up so easily. Surely those who do have placed what they called their faith in a structure and its leaders instead of placing it where it rightfully belongs. Yes we will still feel the pain and the shame, yes we will still feel the misery of those accused but we will pray that if they are guilty they will seek forgiveness. The damage to our children will take a long time, if ever to heal. But we will not shy away from our place of worship. We will stay and help to rebuild it, becoming conscious of all things within the Church, prayerfully asking ourselves if Christ would find something of value in the things we do keep there.
PAUL, speaking to the Romans in Chapter 3 tells us..."for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." We are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; by His Book our sins through faith and confession are passed over. Verse 2l:7 of Romans tells us, "Where is the boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith."
THIS world will always be a paradox of tragedy, betrayal, disappointment and pain. God did not promise life without its painful days. We will experience and encounter pain over and over again during our lifetime here, but on the positive side God promises to be with us through the pain. God promises to give us the power of His Presence so that we can cope, so that we can have perspective, so that the pain of loss and heartbreak does not overtake us but will strengthen our resolve. And like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we must place our trust and faith totally in God. Like Daniel who was thrown in the lion's den, we have to keep that faith. Like the entire family of the Macabees who refused to give up their faith, we must keep that faith alive, keep our focus on Heaven. Life is a trial so we must set our sights on God's redeeming grace, so that when the end comes we will be pronounced by Him "NOT GUILTY!" By what reason? By the reason of FAITH!
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