Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mark 5:33-34: Loving Jesus in Faith

Mark 5: 33-34
But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” (NASB)

Faith is believing without seeing.  Faith, moreover, is loving Christ with a devoted heart, even when we lack the physical evidence.  As our Lord said to St. Thomas in John 20:29, “. . . Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  After the our Lord’s glorious resurrection, the apostle Thomas doubted the Lord’s identity and desired to see His wounds to verify that Jesus was truly resurrected.  In John 20, St. Thomas’ actions contrast with Christ teaching about faith in the Gospels.  In almost every miracle that our Lord performs, He states that it is our faith that saves us.  For example, one of my favorite episodes in St. Luke’s Gospel (Luke 7:36-50) tells about the sinful woman who was forgiven.  It is amid the Law-focused, hypocritical Pharisees that this sinful woman shows a beautifully contrasting humility and love for our Lord by cleaning His  feet with ointment, her tears, and her hair. Christ lovingly tells her that “(the woman's) faith has saved (her); go in peace” (Luke 7:50).  Likewise, faith is defined  when blind Bartimaeus, in his beggarly position outside the walls of Jericho and among the crowd, calls out to Jesus as He passes.  Christ gives Bartimaeus sight and says,“Go; your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:46-52).  Finally, the absence of faith can define its importance.  When Jesus enters his hometown to preach the Good News, people shun him and don’t believe that this son of Joseph and Mary could be the Christ.  In Matthew 13:58, the evangelist states that “(Jesus) did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.”  Faith, therefore, is not only the belief in the unseen, but it also is an essential ingredient in the salvific power of Christ to touch our lives.  We need faith in order to grow closer to Our Lord and should pray for a deepening of our faith daily.  
    In defining faith, I come back to its significance in my relationship with God.  God offers me the opportunity to receive faith from Him.  Faith, therefore, is a gift, an offering from God to bring me into loving communion with Him. Faith is not something I posses outside of God, nor is it something that I can work hard for and earn.  Faith is a gift freely given to me, a gift that I am called to embrace, and something that I pray thanksgiving for each day.  There were certain moments in my life that I always maintained faith in God and held Christ in my heart, but my life did not reflect that gift of faith through acts of love.  For example, there were many years that I fell away from the Church.  Although I tried different brands of Protestantism, I struggled to find truth without result.  I ended up not attending Mass or any ecclesial community for a long time.  Although I convinced myself that I had faith in Jesus in my heart, without any active pursuit of faith-based love, I struggled to find meaning in everything and easily slipped deeper into a world of secularism.  Blinded by the world, flesh, and devil, my faith was dead, reduced to mere words without loving action.  Faith is a gift offered by God and requires acts of love in order to bloom, and it is what so wonderfully defines us as Catholics.  Once Jesus offered a conversion which I embraced, it reverted me back home to the Church. 

 Faith is the active gift that I embrace each day in my communion with Christ.  If and when my faith falters, I pray for God’s grace and ask like father of the boy with the unclean spirit did in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief.”  My faith, like me, is not perfect, but with prayer and heartfelt acts of love toward God and neighbor, God lovingly offers this gift of faith, and through the strength of my Savior Jesus Christ, I embrace it.