Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Authentic faith, genuine religion, is meant to be transformative; or it is nothing. (Reflections on Jn. 8:31-42, Wed. 5th Week of Lent)

Jesus deals a death-blow in today's gospel reading to a claim all-important to the Jews. For them, Abraham was one of the greatest figures in all religious history, and they considered themselves safe and secure in God's favor simply because they were Abraham’s descendants.

The admiration which the Jews had for Abraham was of course perfectly legitimate, for he is a giant in the religious history of the world. But what followed from their admiration of him, was quite misguided. For they believed that Abraham had gained so much blessings from his goodness that this merit was sufficient, not only for himself, but for all his descendants as well.

This in effect, led to a very bad attitude of complacency and indifference on their part. They became less concerned with actually seeking and obeying God’s will, and had instead allowed their religion to deteriorate to the point that they could not even recognize the Messiah they had been waiting for. In fact, as Jesus says, they now even wanted to kill him. This could hardly the work of Abraham’s children.

What Jesus was telling them therefore was that true faith is known, not by claims, even as important as the claim of being children of Abraham. Faith is known, not by words, however great sounding they might be.

A religion built on words, beautiful, grandiose, even edifying words, remains just that, a religion of words. A religion founded on emotion, deep, moving, even most intense, remains just that, a religion of emotion. A religion whose edifice is no more than thought, no matter how profound, elaborate, sophisticated and complex, remains just that, a religion of thought, issuing forth in nothing truly meaningful in the lives of women and men.

Faith, true religion, is known only by concrete deeds. Action alone proves that faith is real. The book of James tells us in no uncertain terms: “faith without works is dead”. Authentic faith, genuine religion, is meant to be transformative or it is nothing: it must convert one's mind, change one's heart, and move one's hands and feet to make a difference in the world.

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