This reflection is taken from the Sunday Mass Readings of Jan. 18, 2015:
“When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Sm 3:9-10). “John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (Jn 1:35-37).
In the first reading, we see someone listening to God; in the Gospel, we see two people following God.
These people didn’t have a Bible featuring Old and New Testaments, or an international Church with nearly two thousand years of work put into interpreting that Bible; they didn’t live in a place like America, where the worst thing we usually have to fear concerning our beliefs is being disliked or ridiculed. Samuel lived in a time of great sacrilege, and as it says in 1 Samuel, “During the time young Samuel was minister to the LORD under Eli, the word of the LORD was scarce and vision infrequent” (3:1). The Apostles mentioned were uneducated fishermen, living during a time of crucifixions and religious persecution.
But they had something that many of us today do not: they had faith.
Their faith wasn’t just in the existence of God; in their age of comparative simplicity, they were wise enough to see that supernatural reality was a given. Rather, they also had faith in the promises of God, and the prophets of God; they took heart in the Scripture and knowledge they had at the time, and appreciated it so much more than many of us do today.
These people didn’t just believe in God, which seems to be as far as many of today’s lukewarm Christians are willing to go; they also believed God, to the point where they actually strove to follow His commands and understand His words. They feared God and obeyed Him.
Many of us aren’t like that. The extent of our “faith” is believing that God exists; from there, many of us just have fun with that belief. We interpret His words to mean whatever we feel they should mean. We neglect His commands. We ignore His warnings. We close off our minds and hearts to Him, and put ourselves in charge of our existences.
It’s along the same lines as putting an unlicensed psychopath in charge of driving us across the country–when we could do it ourselves–and expect that we’ll be safer that way.
God gives us explicit directions–through His Word and through His Church–on how we are to obtain grace and avoid evil. He doesn’t will any of us to go to Hell; eternity is a very long time to suffer for our sins. However, if we make no effort to receive some of the grace He offers us in the here and now, we will in no way be fit for Heaven. Put short–if we rarely want to do God’s will in this life, we shouldn’t suddenly expect it to be done for us in the next.
Believing that God exists isn’t the magic trick to get into Heaven; believing that He died to set us free isn’t in itself going to set us free; even being Baptized isn’t going to bring us to Heaven, if we do nothing with the graces given from it. For all of these things are graces; if we use them, and truly believe in them and their power, then we have hope; if we only try to take advantage of them, and proclaim our “faith” without any intention of living it out, then we are no better than the hypocritical Pharisees Christ Himself condemned.
There is more to “believing” in God than just believing that He is factual. In order to truly “believe” in Him, then we must also “believe” in what He has told us; we must fear the Lord, and “believe” in His will.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers’”–Jesus (Mt 7:21-23).
by Cameron Daly