“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” - Mark 2
Christmas was about three weeks ago and perhaps our brief encounter with "good feelings," as well as our reminders of our difficulties with being "family" are not that far away. It might be that this is a good time to , in the shadow of all that, to ask ourselves why we "practice our faith," to the degree we practice it. Following that question is the further one: Is there more?
The Letter to the Hebrews is written to a Jewish-Christian community which has become discouraged. There was zeal and ferver in the beginning, but that has worn off. Difficult times have brought a loss of hope and a slackening of virtue and practice of the faith. The letter is a marvelous encouragement to place their hope in God's promise, "as an anchor of the soul" and in Jesus our High Priest. (verses 19 & 20) The central image of the letter is the notion of "faith" as trusting in something we can't hold on to as logical or tangible evidence. The faith of the ancestors held on to their hope before them, trusting that what God promised will come true.
This can be quite comforting and helpful for us in our troubled times. Whatever we suffer personally or whatever way we experience the mess of cultural values around us, we can, at times, find ourselves quite discouraged. The falling off of vocations to apostolic religious life and of vocations of young men called to be servants of their brothers and sisters as priests, is a warning sign of the cooling of our faith. The way we can become entangled in the values of our culture and at times simply reject the teaching of the Gospel, is evidence that something is happening within us and around us. The family itself is under attack. The media present images of people fighting with each other all the time, of parents caught up in their lives and neglecting their children, and of children who have total disregard for their parents.
As this cultural confusion affects us negatively, we can pause today and remember that God's love for us is faithful. We are not alone. Our Savior came to us in the messiest of places and died for us on the greatest sign of rejection, so that we would know an unconditional love and be called to love others the same way. The challenge of these days, as Jesus indicates in his battle in this part of Mark's gospel, with the scribes and Pharasees, faith it is not about obeying a number of rules. Faith is about a relationship with God. Ultimately, it is about letting the Holy Spirit, whom the Father and Jesus left us, (so that we would not be orphans in this world).open our hearts, comfort us with a relationship with Jesus, and to set us on fire to love and serve as he did.
We can restore hope in our hearts by pausing today and simply saying, "Thank you." It would be a "Thank you" addressed to a person who loves us. We won't forget that. And, honest and grateful conversations will follow, in the brief "inbetween" times of our busy days. Discerment which leads to freer choices will follow. The restoration of our wounded relationships will follow. Self-sacrificing love will follow. Servant leadership will follow. Communities hearing the cry of the poor will follow. His promise will be fulfilled. Our God is faithful!
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook