Believing, Belonging, Building

Br. Francis Wagner, OSB
Thursday, May 6, 2021

Love is not a feeling. It certainly involves feelings, but ultimately it must go much, much deeper. More than anything else, love is a decision.

True love is not always pleasant or easy, but it is always fulfilling because in demanding total giving of self, it paradoxically delivers genuine self-realization. It is other-directed, but self-discovering, in that order.

Love is a manifestation of the self-giving of the God of Love, who exhaled his own divine breath of life into us, and later, in the person of Jesus, exhaled his last human breath to give us eternal life despite all our wrongdoing and ingratitude.

Faith is similar. It is not a feeling, though at times it may involve feelings. Ultimately it is a commitment. It doesn't mean seeing or knowing everything, but believing in the One who does - the God who leads us just as he led the ancient Israelites out of slavery and across the desert to the Promised Land.

Faith, like love, is a relationship of trust that seeks the good, even when it is not self-evident. Faith is, as the celebrated declaration in the Letter to the Hebrews says, "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (11:1).

Culminating with the Incarnation, God gradually manifested himself on Earth (the manna in the desert, Jesus' feeding of 5,000 people with a few barley loaves, the Eucharist, etc.). He became one with our human nature, but sometimes (likely most times) all we can see is the earthly reality.

That's OK. Faith asks us nevertheless to trust in the divine presence of self-giving in our relationship with God and one another - to believe in what is said because ofwhohas said it: "I am the Bread of Life" (John 6:35); "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" (Mark 9:7).

Faith is a free choice to profess one's belonging to One greater than one's own self, to regularly renew our individual and collective commitment of belonging to God.

The ancient Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, did this upon entering the Promised Land, and we do this at every Eucharist under the leadership of Jesus (Joshua and Jesus are different forms of the same name in Hebrew).

As Christians, we do well to meditate on what the commitment of belonging truly means in terms of our relationship with God and with one another. How has God manifested himself to me? What does it mean for me today? Several passages in Scripture offer worthy points of reflection. Among them:

                "Choose this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15).

               "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21).

                "Do you also wish to go away?"(John 6:67).

Peter gives the perfect response in John's Gospel: "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (6:60-69).

As we know, Peter, first and foremost among the Apostles and the rock upon which the Church is built, did not always live that response perfectly - even after this conversation in John's Gospel. That should give us all hope. By the grace and mercy of God, to paraphrase St. Anthony the Great, each day we begin again, deciding whom we will serve.

Let us each day choose to taste and see that the Lord is good, and commit to building up one another in the love of Christ.