5/11/2017 9:00:00 AM WORD OF FAITH As American as apple pie
BY REV. ANTHONY LIGATO
FROM A READING FOR MAY 14, FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
'You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mights acts of Him who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light...' -- 1 Pt 2:9
Over the past 20 years, many of our greatest institutions have fallen on hard times -- some due to technology or changing tastes; others, due to self-inflicted wounds.
Many of these institutions were the cornerstone of our society and culture. We have lost our faith in many of them. Government and financial institutions, industries and social institutions such as family and church have all had great challenges to overcome as they respond to a rapidly-changing society and culture.
These institutions were as American as motherhood, baseball and apple pie -- and even those things themselves are being challenged by societal change. But that's not the only reason people have lost faith in these institutions. Many of them have shaken people's faith due to sins of omission or sins of commission.
What happens to us when we cannot rely on our greatest institutions to bring order and stability into our lives? We feel insecure and anxious, troubled and overwhelmed by a world where we cannot count on anything.
The words of Jesus in the Gospel (John 14:1-12) are comforting. "Jesus said to His disciples: 'Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.'"
Faith in what?
Where we place our faith is profoundly important. Human institutions and even the Church -- which has Jesus as its head -- are led by fallible humans, who, if they act apart from God, are apt due to human frailty to make mistakes in judgment and, at worst, to sin.
That is true of us all, from those who minister to those who are pastorally cared for by those ministers. Take, for example, the first reading (Acts 6:1-7): We are given a portrait of the early Church which is not particularly flattering.
As the Church was attracting new believers, it had growing pains, and those difficulties were being lived out in the local community. "So, the 12 called together the community of disciples and said, 'It is not right for us to neglect the Word of God to serve at table.'"
The 12 were being distracted by conflicts in the daily life of the community. The people were having their faith in one another shaken, and the 12 realized this and put into place an order of ministers who would bring stability back to the life of the community. The 12 said: "Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom."
Those who were chosen became the first deacons of the Church. They cared for widows and orphans. They made sure the resources of the community were shared fairly among all members. They made sure all contributed to the well-being of the community.
The community of believers were called by their baptisms to realize God's kingdom here and now. It was not just a promise of future kingdom of glory, but a kingdom that could be realized on Earth if they lived their lives as "people of the way."
Jesus told the Apostles and disciples in the Gospel passage that He was going to prepare a place for them, but He also told them they were to embrace the future promise of this place here on Earth. When Thomas continued to doubt, he said to Jesus, "We do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus responded, "I am the way and the truth and the life."
If we have faith in Jesus, then we must have faith in His words by living them out. No matter how our institutions may fail us or cause to lose faith in them, we are called to place our trust in Jesus and, by doing so, renew our institutions, because they are not inanimate objects. All institutions are made up of people, and people can be renewed.
As the second reading (1 Pt 2:4-9) reminds us, we are all living stones upon which our Church and society are built.