What of Faith?

I am always somewhat saddened when I realize that some Protestants don’t include the Apocrypha in their Bibles. They miss some inspirational stories.

None can be delineated more so that that found in 2Maccabees 7. It is the story of the seven brothers and their mother. It is a story of immense faith in the face of torture and death.

Moreover it is one of the few places in the Old Testament (that is proper here, since the Hebrew Bible doesn’t include them within its canon), where resurrection is directly discussed.

Maccabees was written sometime in 124BCE, and in Koine Greek, and most probably in Egypt. It relates the Israeli struggle against the Seleucid King, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In the story, Antiochus seeks to force the brothers and their mother to eat pork, which is forbidden to them as pious Jews. They are each tortured and then killed. They go to their deaths, secure in their faith and that since God created them, He will resurrect them.

It’s a bloody tale, gruesome in fact. Today, we would be fairly appalled that someone would accept martyrdom for so trivial a thing as eating pork. It is akin to demanding a Christian to renounce the belief that Mary was perpetually a virgin until her death. We know enough of God to realize that God requires no such piety, especially about a subject that we are not truly “sure” about.

But it is instructive to us today for the depth and breadth of what it means to have faith. 

We, all of us believers, are subject to a certain complacency about our faith. We assure anyone who asks that we “believe”. Fully ninety some percent of people in the US profess belief in God. The numbers who actually attend services or pray with frequency, or read spiritual things, or meditate are substantially smaller. So there is something of a disconnect between what we profess and what we practice.

And this calls into question, just how meaningful is a faith that is not close to our hearts and minds. Are we intellectual Catholics and Protestants? Or are we heartful?

Do we stop to think about the Creeds we recite, and other rote responses we make throughout the mass? I tend to recite every evening  an act of contrition. I can recite it without thinking much. I try not to do that. I try to think about what I’m saying. I often fail.

More important, if we are merely going through the motions, then perhaps we aren’t doing much about how we live our Christianity either. Do we even seek to see Jesus in the face of those strangers we meet during the week?  Are we quick to forgive, or quick to anger? Do we look for the best or worst in others?

Such questions are important to ask of ourselves. For if we find that our religious practices have little or no impact upon our daily living, then it seems to me that our faith is of little account.

I am not one to claim that only some will meet God upon death. I rather suspect we all will. But that is no excuse to live one’s life with only a cursory acknowledgement of God’s presence. Such a life is bereft of real meaning, real joy, and real love. We reject, in fact, most of what God offers us–the grace of his total love and help.

This is simply foolish it seems to me. We do God such disservice by ignoring him except when pressed to declare ourselves. We harm ourselves immeasurably. It is illogical and frankly nearly insane. But God honors our choice nonetheless.

Stories like that of the seven brothers serve to inspire us to examine our faith commitment and to redouble our efforts to be true disciples of Christ.

Amen.

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