APRIL 28, 2007- JOHN 6:0-69

IT IS THE SPIRIT THAT GIVES LIFE, THE FLESH IS USELESS. THE WORDS I SPOKE TO YOU ARE SPIRIT AND LIFE. That there are many difficulties that accompany faith in Jesus, our Risen Lord, is true not only for us some two thousand years after his birth. Faith proved to haveits challenges already in the times of our Lord as todayís Gospel indicates; it takes this topic as its theme in fact Cardinal Newman, who had mastered the study of the Churchís history from earliest times, noted in the 19th century that numerous difficulties attended belief ; as he evaluated them, one by one in the course of his detailed studies and long meditation. His conclusion he famously stated with the observation that "a thousand difficulties do not make a doubt." Far from discouraging faith, its challenges are, for those who choose to put their trust in our Savior, occasions for deepening of trusting belief and renewed commitment to the glorified Savior of mankind. The reason for this state of our human condition remains a mystery to our human minds, that is to the flesh, but the most profound reason is given in todayís by our Lord himself. "I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." Faith, then, is a free gift of Godís inscrutable love that makes Him known. To be more precise, as appears in this entire passage of Johnís Gospel, faith is a gift offered by God that must be accepted, even welcomed, by a human decision made in the heart. There is then a two-fold dimension to faith: it is at once Divine and human.

Pope Benedict has some helpful reflections, obviously based on his personal experiences, that he shares with us on the nature of this fundamental disposition to which we give the name faith. The first point he makes is that faith is an orientation of our existence as a whole that affects every domain of our existence. It is not a choice made once that then persists throughout all of life; rather, he points out, it must be maintained "by all the energies of our existence." The act of faith includes not only our minds, as if its contents are confined to the doctrines taught by the Church in her various sources of belief, but but also the will and the emotions, being "an act of the whole self, of the whole person in his concentrated unity." That is how St. Paul thinks of faith when he writes to the Romans that "by believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with the lips you are saved."( 10:9).

We must learn to deepen and intensify faith first of all through daily prayer by exercising our belief and a living of trust in God. In addition we must grow stronger in faith by adhering to Godís will perseveringly in times of temptation and suffering when, to our senses the Lord seems distant, and uncaring and belief appears to be merely a delusion. Such testing of faith was experienced even by the most fervent and innocent of Godís chosen ones. Mother Teresa revealed how persistently and intensely her trust in Godís love and fidelity was tested in the course of her ministry and her life of prayer. Her patronness, St Therese of Lisieux, suffered her greatest trials toward the end of her life when her trust in our Lord was sorely tested by the vivid thought that her faith in him was but an empty wish without any basis in reality. She, nonetheless, persisted with constancy in her fidelity, confidently entrusting herself to his mercy and loving care.

May this Eucharist then be an act of faith for each of us as we renew our trust in Jesus, who tells us in the words of todayís Gospel, that "the words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." The life he speaks of is eternal life in the glory of the Father, shared in communion with him, and with all who live with trust in his caring love. Ѿ

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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