Friday, April 15, 2011

"You've talked the talk; now let's see you walk the walk" (Reflections on John 10:31-42)

Today’s gospel shows the seriousness of Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish leaders of his time. As far as they were concerned, Jesus was a trespasser, one who claimed for himself, the space that was reserved for God alone. Jesus’ statement that he and the Father are one is sheer blasphemy which will eventually cost Jesus his life.

And yet, despite their shock at his words, Jesus doesn’t flinch. He speaks the truth. But he does invite them to see that his words aren’t empty words. And so he invites the acid test. He says to them:

“If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

In effect, he was saying: “I do not ask you to accept my words. But I do ask you to accept my deeds.” He tells them that if they do not wish to believe his words, then they should believe him on account of the deeds he has done in his Father’s name.

A word is something about which one can argue; but a deed is something beyond argument. Jesus does not base his claims on what he says, but on what he does. His invitation to the Jews was to base their verdict on him, not on what he said, but on his actions; and that is a test which we his followers ought to be able and willing to meet.

As it was for Jesus, so must it be for us. As he tells us in another part of the bible: “Let all people see your good deeds, so that in seeing them, they may give glory to your Father in heaven”. We sometimes hear it said: “You've talked the talk; now let’s see you walk the walk”.

Eight hundred years ago, a wealthy young man went around gathering friends around himself and preaching to people about poverty, humility, and absolute abandonment and trust in God’s providence. He began giving away his clothes and possessions to the poor. His wealthy father, furious at his seeming disregard for property, challenged him before the bishop to be true to his words.

The young man proceeded to take off all his clothes and handed them over to his father—his ultimate act of living concretely and genuinely, the poverty, humility, and absolute trust in Divine Providence which he had preached. That young man of course was Francis of Assisi.

When many years later, he was ordained a deacon, he chose not to be ordained a priest in fidelity to the commitment to total humility that he had made to God and to himself many years before. Francis knew how to “talk”, but he knew how to put flesh and blood to that “talk”. He “walked the walk”. His actions bore witness to the genuineness of his words.

Words are easy; too often they also come cheap. Concrete acts to back up one's words are the true measure of a man. In the Christian life as well, concrete deeds of goodness are the only authentic measure of genuine faith. Everything else is secondary.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)