Jermiah 38:4-6, 8-10
20th Sunday in Ordinary time
I was home, India, for a few weeks after almost two and half years. I was intrigued that the lectionary in most of the parishes have the word “at that time” at the beginning of every gospel passage. Some of you may remember the Latin term ‘In illo tempore’ to every gospel reading prior to Vatican II. We know the importance of the historical events in the Christian faith, but liturgy is not history; it is a re-enactment of those events in the present, the NOW.
The past has great attractions. It has all happened already, and so it is unlikely to disturb us. It is when we are most lazy and self-satisfied that we are most conservative. Everyone is a conservative for an hour or two after dinner.
It is strange that in most parts of the world the Christian faith has come to stand for everything that is safe and conservative. As Philip Brooks wrote, “The religion of Jesus has so long been identified with conservatism… that it is startling sometimes to remember that all the conservatives of his own times were against him; that it was the young, free, restless, sanguine, progressive part of the people who flocked to him.” It may be for the same reason that they now flock out of the Church. It has no fire in its belly, no power of prophecy, because it is more interested in conserving the past than in engaging with the world around it.
It is dangerous, I believe, to think of faith as something one ‘has’, a possession. If you are in secure possession of it, you are safe; then all you have to do is be careful not to lose it. But faith is something one does. “I have come to bring fire on earth.” What is fire? Is it just some ‘thing’ lying there safely, needing to be protected on all sides? No, it is energy, and it is not safe to have it around. If it makes you feel safe, it is not faith.
Giltus Mathias CP is a Passionist priest that lives at St.Brigi’s Community Marrickville.