I was talking recently with a friend about my conversion to the Catholic Church. One of the things (among many), I told him, that drew me to the Church was the Catholic Church demands something of the believer.
Sort of like Jesus does.
We don’t get to just believe. We can’t just assent to a set of principles. Our faith isn’t merely an intellectual enterprise. It is intellectual but also deeply incarnational. This, to me, was one of the great strengths of the Catholic faith and a drawing point for me. I felt like, and still feel, that the Catholic Church aligns with the call of Holy Scripture and the person of Jesus that our lives matter. What we do when we profess belief matters. Your belief is expressed by what you do.
Jesus called it fruit. We will know a tree by its fruit (Matthew 3 & 7, John 15, Galatians 5, Philippians 1).
I am struck by something in this week’s readings. I’m especially struck by it in the OT reading. The readings are:
1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19
Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10 (responsorial)
1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20
Our OT text is striking to me. Samuel hears a voice calling him in the night. He wakes up and goes to Eli (the priest) and says (basically), “You called me?” Eli of course says no. And the pattern repeats itself a couple of times before Eli realizes that it is God who is calling to Samuel and gives him further instructions.
This begs some questions for me. First and foremost, why didn’t Eli (who was the priest of God) recognize that it was God Himself who called to Samuel?
Well, I think it’s because of sin. Look back at 1 Samuel 2. Eli had two sons who were priests. And they were wicked and sinful men. Eli, as the “high priest,” was overlooking their sin. They were spitting in the face of God and Eli did nothing to stop them. Eli didn’t immediately recognize God’s voice because of sin in his own life. Eli was participating in the sins of his sons by letting it go and not confronting it.
Let this be instructional in our own lives. How we live matters. Letting sin go in our lives and in our home will have disastrous consequences. In Eli’s case, it cost him the lives of his sons and his ministry as a priest and, in this particular incident, he was deaf to the voice of God for a time. Sin will do that. It’ll clog your spiritual ears and you won’t recognize His voice.
Second question: Wasn’t Samuel literally living in the “temple” and hadn’t he been consecrated to God from birth? How did he not know who God was? Look at the text…”Samuel did not yet know the LORD.”
This is striking. He lived in the place of worship, assisting the priest in the worship of God’s people and had been consecrated to the LORD from birth and he didn’t yet know the LORD?! What?!
But didn’t Jesus say this also? He told us that this would happen. Look at Matthew’s gospel, chapter 7:21-27 and Luke 6:46-49. That text in Matthew scares the crap out of me. Jesus says there will be those who do things “in His name.” In other words, there will be those who, on the surface, appear to be Christians but don’t know Jesus…nor does He know them.
This is more than just a fruit issue, this is a heart issue. In other words, your life may bear “fruit” in the sense that you’re doing all the right things but, like Samuel, you may not yet know the LORD. Examine your hearts and souls, dear brothers and sisters, to see if you are of the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Also recognize that sin can block the voice of God in your life. This is why we need to regularly go to confession and examine ourselves. Don’t let sin block the call of God.
If we are living in what the Church calls a state of grace, we will recognize the call of our Savior. We see in our gospel text, first and foremost, that St. John was living in a state of grace. He is proclaiming the gospel to all who will listen, even his own “disciples.” Jesus walks by and John says immediately, “There is the One who can save you; there is the Lamb of God.” As soon as John says that, these guys leave John and follow Jesus.
This is important. When we see Jesus, we need to follow wherever He is going. We can’t just stay where we are. Action is required. We also see these men were honestly seeking Jesus. And when they, and we, honestly seek Jesus, He responds to them and us.
When we, like these men, respond to the call of the gospel (proclaimed by St. John), the Savior will answer. He will answer us if we honestly seek Him because, as St. Paul reminds us in our Epistle reading, we were bought with a price.
The price of our calling has been paid on the cross. I hope you see that, dear believers. I hope you see that the price of your calling, the final punishment has been paid. If you are in Christ, you are free. But that doesn’t mean that you get to sit on your laurels and do nothing.
No, the call of God to us is always a call to action. His call, whether to Samuel or John’s disciples or the church in Corinth, is one of not only faith but obedience. The call of God demands something of you. Like Samuel, we must respond in faith. Like John’s disciples, we must follow in faith. And like the church in Corinth, we must remember that we are bought with the price of the precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior. It is He who has heard the call of the Father and responded in obedience so that we may now respond in kind.
He is calling.
I think we’re in a crisis right now in pretty much everything. Western society seems to be completely melting down around us. People have lost their minds, it feels like. The whole world is cringing in fear from a virus that the vast majority of people are recovering from just fine but everybody is acting like it’s the Black Plague and everybody seems to hate anyone who has a different opinion than them.
The Church is in crisis; all kinds of shenanigans coming out of the Vatican. The Pope, it seems like, on an almost daily basis seems to be intent on completely undermining 2000 plus years of Church practice, belief and tradition. Some of our bishops seem to have sold out to their political ideology and some priests don’t seem interested in the hard work of saving souls.
Things seem really complex and unstable.
I was attending a meeting today. The person leading this meeting said something that was really profound and speaks directly to where we are as a society, where the Church is and where we are as individuals who follow Christ collectively. In discussing how to live a sober life (she’s a substance abuse professional who has herself recovered), she said that living a sober life was “actually really simple. It’s not easy but it’s actually quite simple.”
I thought about that as it relates to the Christian life.
Here’s the thing. We have made Christianity really complex. We have made it much more complex than it actually is. I’m not saying that there aren’t complex theological concepts. I’m saying that living the Christian life, being a disciple of Jesus is really quite simple. It’s not easy but it’s actually quite simple.
You probably think I’m nuts for saying that. But hear me out.
I’m going to put this into a Catholic perspective so, if you’re not Catholic, this may or may not make sense to you. But I’m also going to put it in a biblical perspective also so you should be good.
Ok, if you’re Catholic, the Christian life should be pretty simple for you. Do what the Church has traditionally taught us to do. The Catholic Church has, very helpfully, laid out for the faithful how we should be living our lives. She has even helpfully laid out for us what we are to believe. Don’t believe me? Here are a few examples.
You may ask: should I have sex before/outside of marriage?
The Church has already answered that question.
What should I believe about abortion?
The Church has already answered that question.
What is marriage?
The Church has already answered that question.
What should I believe about the Bible?
The Church has answered that question.
When should I go to Church and what should I believe about the Church?
You guessed it…the Church has already answered that question.
See where I’m going with this? The Church has definitively outlined for us what the Christian life should look like in her constant teaching and Tradition. As a side note, anything that is outside the bounds of the constant teaching and Tradition of the Church is NOT binding on the Christian and you should question it and probably not follow it.
You may say…”Yeah but where does the Church get all these things?”
I’m glad you asked.
We got it from Holy Scripture.
This is where the Bible comes in. Scripture has made things really simple for us. Not easy. Simple. The Bible very clearly lays out for us what we are to believe and how we are to live our lives. And the Bible is not hard at all to understand. Granted, there are parts that can be difficult but, again, the Church has been instructive for us here also. If a text is difficult to understand, look to the Church. She has spent the last two centuries teaching us what the Bible says and what it means. The Bible is both extraordinarily simple and deeply complex at the same time. That sounds like an oxymoron, I realize that. The way to salvation is laid out quite simply for us. “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household,” the Apostle Paul tells us in Acts 16:31.
It really is that simple.
Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.
But it’s not for the faint of heart. It won’t be easy. Our Lord Jesus says we have to take up our cross (Matthew 10:38) and deny ourselves. He told us that it may cost us everything, even our families and closest friends. Even Jesus said it wouldn’t be easy. But that doesn’t make it complicated.
Simple doesn’t mean easy.
Things are demanded of us if we are to follow Jesus. Not complex things but they are hard. They’re hard because we are selfish and sinful people. Our hearts are corrupt and deceitful and wicked. Being a Christian is hard because it means you have to die to yourself and the world. You have to take up your cross.
As the lady said today, “It’s not easy but it’s actually quite simple.”
Go to Mass (find a traditional parish if you can) and pay attention. Be engaged.
Look to the unbroken teaching of the Church.
Look to Holy Scriptures.
Look to the cross. On the cross, the folly of the world was laid bare as our Lord went to His death, taking on the sins of the world so that those who believe might be saved. Simple, not easy.
Look to Christ.
His yoke is easy and His burden is light.