Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Thought for Wednesday 11 February 2015

“Jesus said to the [Pharisees], ‘You are from beneath; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe I am He, you will die in your sins’.”  John 8:23-24 NKJV

Jesus’ life on earth was as much marked by His blessings and healings as it was His constant challenges from the Pharisees.  They had clear notions about the Law of Moses and they were diligent in their observances, but there was one component of the Word that seemed to get past them.  It is the same component that escapes too many of us.

There is a clear and discernable difference between religion and faith, but this is not to suggest one supersedes the other.  Rather we should understand our religion as an expression and practice of what we claim to be true.  As St. James had written (1:27), “Pure and undefiled religion before The Lord is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

There is that personal element of religion through which we strive to stay “unspotted” by sin through fasting and prayer and study of the Holy Scriptures, but there is also that clear social component that commands we “visit [those who are mistreated] in their trouble”. 

The fullness of what Jesus was saying to the Pharisees, then, cannot be singularly summed up as only believing Jesus is the Messiah as sufficient for faith.  The fullness of the context is the contrast between “this world” we are too much a part of even as we consider ourselves “faithful” Christians, and “not of this world” which is the Holy Word of the Holy God personified and expressed in Messiah. 

A priest from my childhood once said, “If you find religion and faith to be easy, you are either not doing them right or you are not doing either at all.”  It would be easy to say Jesus is the Messiah – as long as we don’t have to do anything else.  And it is easy to be charitable as long as we don’t have to actually interact with people we don’t know or even like.  Just as “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17), so surely is religion as dead if it lacks a social component of expression.

If we believe Jesus is The One, then, this belief requires not only a commitment to all Jesus teaches and represents and fulfills (the Law and the prophets), but it also requires a response not only in private but also in the lives of others – especially in the lives of strangers, the “widows and orphans” who are marginalized by the secular world, the “aliens” (as clearly written in The Word since “you were once aliens”), and even those whom we consider to be “enemies” since we were once enemies of The Lord ourselves.

Jesus is, or He isn’t – not strictly the “person” but the “personification” of all that is good and true and righteous.  And we are, or we are not the personification of all that is good and true and righteous – not only in the eyes of the Holy Father but in the eyes of those trapped in their troubles and distress.  It is the choice we resolve to make each morning as we pray, “This is the day The Lord has made”.



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