“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
When I was growing up in the 1950’s, Catholics were socialized to be VERY good rule followers.
In my grade school, you’d see girls who had forgotten their chapel veils stick a tissue on their heads rather than go into church uncovered. We questioned whether you could eat canned beans on Friday because of the tiny bit of pork floating at the top and debated about going to “Gone With the Wind” because it had received an “Objectionable” rating from the Legion of Decency back in the 1930’s that hadn’t been updated.
With the best of intentions, we were a lot like the members of the Synagogue of Freedmen in today’s reading from Acts. We focused on lots of spiritual trivia rather than “the great work of God” that “you believe in the one he sent,” as John says.
The passages from Acts and John remind us that faith isn’t about following tiny rules or believing in Jesus because of signs and wonders. Rather, it’s about believing in God’s astonishing gift of sending Jesus to us then transforming our lives because of this as Stephen did.
This is a lot harder than following a lot of rules because we’re not as sure what we’re supposed to do.
In today’s readings, God is telling us to embark on a serious faith journey that entails mystery, confusion and risk. We have to confront tough questions rather than conform to comforting specifics. Do I REALLY believe the almost insanely good news of this season? Have I ever risked anything, as Stephen and the other early Christians did, because of my belief in Jesus? Can I do just one thing different today because of my faith?
Ah for the simplicity of removing the floating piece of pork in the can of beans on Friday!!!!
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