Kristus Aman Feast Day Triduum Day 1

Kristus Aman Feast Day Triduum Day 1 - Mary, Woman of Faith

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Feast 1

After a very long and boring sermon, the parishioners filled out of the church saying nothing to the preacher. Towards the end of the line was a thoughtful person who always had a comment on the sermons.

“Pastor, today your sermon reminded me of the peace and love of God”

The pastor was thrilled. “No one has ever said anything like this about my preaching before”. “Tell me why?” asked the pastor.

“Well, it reminded me of the Peace of God because it passes all understanding and the Love of God because it endures forever!”

Good evening sisters and brothers,

I hope today’s homily and the coming days will not remind you of the Peace and Love of God in the way this person saw the pastor’s preaching!

As we begin our 3 days leading up to our first Patronal Feast, we start with the theme “Woman of Faith”. And to break open this theme, I will be reflecting on three questions:

Firstly, what do we understand by “Faith”?
Secondly, what was Mary’s faith like, so much so that she came to be known as a “Woman of Faith”?
and Thirdly, how can we as “Church”, be men and women of faith?

What is Faith?
So allow me to start off on our first point on what is faith with another joke. For the umpteenth time Mrs Youngston came to her pastor to tell him, “I’m so scared! Joe says he’s going to kill me if I continue to come to your church”

“Yes, yes my child” replied the pastor, more than a little tired of hearing this over and over. “I will continue to pray for you, Mrs. Youngston. Have faith. The Lord will watch over you”

“Oh yes, he has kept me safe thus far. But...”

“But what my child?” asked the pastor

“Well now he says if I keep coming to your church, he’s going to kill you!”

“Well now” said the pastor, “Perhaps it’s time you check out that little church on the other side of town!”

Like the pastor in the story, the words “Oh don’t worry, have faith” rolls off our lips so easily anytime someone comes to us with a problem. We hand it out like a Panadol or an Handiplast:

“Don’t worry, don’t worry” or “Have faith”.

But what is this “Faith” we are asking people to have? Is it mere knowledge about God? Or is it believing without question? Or is it merely something we say
when we don’t know the answer to a tough question? Often these words roll of our tongue so easily and automatically because it is of no consequence to us like the pastor in the story.

Today’s letter of St John says: “We can be sure that we KNOW Jesus…” Does it mean faith is just intellectual knowledge? Something we can acquire as we study the Bible more? Most of us at some point in our lives; either as children or in later years have had some form of faith formation either from Sunday School or adult faith formation courses. But are these sufficient to say that we know Jesus? If we think that it’s sufficient to know Jesus through these alone, then why do we sometimes find ourselves tormented and in despair in the face of challenges? It’s becoming more common nowadays to hear comments like:

“My mind knows that God loves me and that He walks with me, but somehow my heart just can’t believe it”

Why do we say such things? What’s missing in our faith? There must be something more than just intellectual knowledge when we speak about “Faith”.

If we were to look at that line from St John again about “knowing Jesus” what we often overlook, is the origin of the word “Know”. It is more than just about intellectual knowledge. It also involves a certain kind of experience. This is why in the scriptures, when they use the word “Know” in the context of “knowing someone” such as “Adam knowing Eve” for example, it was more than Adam knowing Eve as a person at head or cerebral level. It is also at the level of experience, by being intimate with her. Similarly, faith too is not just about knowing God intellectually but it also includes something more, and that is, an experience and an encounter with God.

Take the Word of God for example. We may know the scriptures: that is at the intellectual level but going deeper through methods such as “Lectio Divina”
which is meditating on the Word can move, challenge or affirm us. This is that encounter and experience of God. Without going deeper in our experience we would only be stuck at the mere intellectual aspect of our faith. It could leave us proud and legalistic. In other words, “smug”. Proud; because we will think, that we are better than others and we will use what we know, to justify our actions. How often have we heard people; especially on the topic of confession
saying things such as: “I know God is loving and forgiving, so even if I don’t go for confession even if I could, I know He understands and forgives me”

It can also make us legalistic. Turning faith into a weapon against others or what some people may label as the “Holier than thou” attitude. Rather than an encounter and relationship with God, we use our knowledge to establish authority rather than to live our faith in the daily interactions with people. This only makes us fail to see the Christ in the other. A perfect example of this would be the conversion of St Paul.

Prior to his conversion, he prided himself on having knowledge of the Jewish law. Thus justifying his mission to persecute the early Jewish Christians. But it was his encounter with the Lord, that led him to a conversion of heart and eventually his whole life. Therefore, when we say we “know” God, that must lead to a change from within us like it did for St Paul: A total conversion.

This also applies to our encounter and experience of God. We need to be careful and ensure that we also do not only seek for personal encounters with God. The intellectual aspect of our faith also needs nurturing. One without the other leaves us still incomplete. A soulful, emotional and a cerebral knowledge of the faith is vital. Otherwise faith can turn into a mere routine or a superstition. That’s when the “pious” and “piety” displays will take precedence. We become like creatures on display for all to watch rather than being in a deep relationship with God.

Routine: in the sense that I do the things repeatedly without really knowing what I am doing or what I do does not challenge or change me to deepen my faith in God and love for neighbour. For example, I may dutifully pray the rosary daily without fail but if it does not challenge me to grow in deeper love for God or neighbour then I am merely “pushing beads”.

Faith can also be turned into a mere set of superstitious beliefs. Like the story of a lady, an Australian brother shared with us one day.

Every morning she would go early to Church as soon as the doors open to do her daily “ritual” before the morning mass. This ritual consists of moving from one statue to another in the Church kissing the feet of them. This was a routine for her, that she even kisses the head of the devil without really realizing who she was kissing just because it was at the feet of St Michael the Archangel. And to make matters worse, all this routine is done while walking past the tabernacle, totally oblivious to the true presence of Christ in there. With such practices, it is no surprise then why many today, see faith to be irrelevant, inapplicable and even superstitious. If we ourselves do not understand what we are doing, we would just be witnessing to people, a superstitious faith rather than what faith truly is.

“Faith” is vital. It’s our lifeblood. But our hearts must change when we encounter Him. This makes faith relevant and applicable in our lives. And because faith is both intellect and an experience, it also helps us to be obedient to the commandments of God. Because “Obedience”, is not about merely following blindly. Rather, if we were to look at the root word, “Obidere”, it means “to listen”. Understanding “Obedience” as “listening” then helps us to realise, that when we are called to be obedient to God, we are in fact called to listen to what God has to tell us about our self and that is, we are His beloved Children.

This is why through the eyes of faith, the commandments are not a set of Do’s and Don’ts, rather, they are guidelines on “How to be true and how to love”
self, God and neighbour.

Mary, Woman of Faith

So now that we understand, that Faith is both intellectual knowledge and experience. They are important for us, so that we can apply it to our daily life and obey the commandments of God.

Think about this now...why then is Mary known as “Woman of Faith” both as a person, as well as a symbol of “Church”?

As a Person/Woman

As a Person, a Woman, we see how throughout her life she had both the intellectual knowledge and the experience of God which not only allowed her to live out her faith in her daily life but also to be obedient to the laws and commandments of God. We see this in the Gospel today of her obedience to the prescribed Jewish law which required her to consecrate her first born male to God. And we see her faith also in the Annunciation. Instead of asking, “Who are you?”, she asked “How can this be?”

Not out of disbelief but more likely the question was to ask, “How can I be part of this plan?” Because if we compare her question to Zechariah’s, Zechariah was made silent as a result of his question but for Mary, the angel replied by telling “How” it was to happen. We also know that Mary’s faith was more than mere intellect when on many occasions in the scriptures, we are told how she “Kept it in her heart”. In Luke 2:19, she “Kept in her heart” the shepherds story
and in LK 2:51, when they found Jesus in the temple.

To “Keep in the heart” is not about “Simpan dendam” but to ponder and reflect all what is happening in order to recognize God’s hand at work.

What about us? Ever asked yourself:

“How can I too have that magnetic and simple faith like Mary had?
Do I ponder about the events and experiences of my life?
Or have I been living an unreflected and unpondered life?

For Mary, because she pondered, it allowed her to recognize God at work. It helped her live what she believed and experienced in her life and the most common example of this is her “Fiat”. Her “Yes” to God. Not just at the Annunciation, but throughout her life.

How do we know this? Look at this:
When she presented Jesus at the temple in today’s Gospel, she said “Yes” to love God through her obedience to the laws and commandments of God. 
When she heard the prophecy of Simeon, she said “Yes” to what has to happen to Jesus and herself.
And at the Cross, she said “Yes” to God’s love for us.
These are just some of the many examples of Mary’s “Yes” to God as a result of her faith and obedience to God. This is why Mary is known as “Woman of faith”.  She wasn’t just a “yes” woman however. More importantly, WHO she said “yes” to, time and time again. And that was to God, her centrepiece.

As a Symbol of Church

We see how the Church too is called to teach and lead the people of God both in the knowledge, as well as in the experience of God. We have the doctrines, the scriptures and the traditions and we also have the many forms of prayers and the liturgy to deepen what we know, so that we can encounter God in them.

Liturgies for example, are not just rites and ceremonies devoid of meaning. They are all imbued with meaning. Take the time to understand our liturgy. And in the lives of the Saints: past and present, we also see how their faith and obedience to the laws and commandments led them to encounter God in daily life. This is why Simeon was convinced of God’s promise for him to the see the Messiah before his time was up. It was not only his faith in God alone, which is his intellectual knowledge but also faith in his part of God’s plan, which is his experiential knowledge.

We As Church

Now that we have understood faith as “Knowledge and Experience” and the impact it can have in our lives as seen in the life of Mary, let’s look at our third and final question:

“How can we as Church, be men and women of faith?” Or in the words of Mary, “How can I be part of God’s plan in the world?”

The Good News is, we ALREADY HAVE faith by virtue of our baptism. Half our work is already done. We don’t need to go searching for what we already have within us. What we need to do is to be still, and bring it to our consciousness. Some of us may have more intellectual knowledge than experiential knowledge while others may have it the other way around. And it is this imbalance, that makes us feel or think that we either lack, or don’t have faith at all when actually all we need to do is to bring to consciousness this faith we already have within us.

So to address this, perhaps on an individual level is to first be aware of our current level of faith.

Do I find my faith more intellectual or experiential?

Because once we are able to identify this, then can we work at reaching a balance between these two. We can do a self test and ask ourselves, How much effort do I put into deepening and applying what I know about the teachings of the Church into my life? Whenever I attend mass, seminars, talks or even triduums such as this, Have I reflected on what I have heard and learnt? Have I tried to apply, to live it in my daily life? Or do I merely add this to the collection of notes and handouts when I go home? In other words, has my faith been deepened that my input of knowledge correlates with the output of my actions?

On a Communal Level, especially as a Eucharistic family of Kristus Aman it is to see the direction as a parish. Are we growing to be a more loving and understanding community? or have we become ppl who just happen to worship in the same place? Do we look out and support one another? or am I here merely to see what I can benefit from my contributions to the Church? Is church a social event, a gathering time after mass to merely have coffee and fellowship? Surely it has to be more. A rough indicator to this would be to see our ministries and outreach efforts and the relationships within this community
Are we growing to love and serve God in the people of God here or in the world at large?

So because the Good News is that we have faith, we can recognize that the Lord who is the “Light of the Nations” has come to bring us into the light of true faith as Simeon proclaims. Let us no longer live in the darkness. Let’s live with true conviction of God’s love for us by combining both what we know and what we have experienced.

I pray that at this Eucharist, as we give thanks for the faith that we have through Jesus in the things we have learnt, in the moments we have experienced
and through this one sacrifice, may we place ourselves within this body of faith, and ask the Lord to inspire us to live our lives as people of faith like Simeon, and Mary; the woman of faith.