Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The word “faith” comes up exactly seven times in the readings this week — as though we were meant to focus on it!
We hear about some of the great figures of ancient Israel — figures like Daniel — whose persecution was turned into triumph because of faith. We’re told that Jesus is “the leader and perfecter of our faith.” We’re urged to “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you … and imitate their faith.” We see Mary and Joseph on the feast of the Presentation (Feb. 2): Their simple act of obedience to the law — an act of faith on their part — turned into a blessing for others, an unexpected blessing for them and was an important step in the fulfillment of God’s plan.
We hear laudatory tales. The woman who suffered from hemorrhages for 12 years was healed because of her faith. The daughter of Jairus was raised from the dead after Jesus told him: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” When we have faith, we can receive all that Jesus wants to offer us.
We also hear cautionary tales. In contrast to the possessed man who was healed and begged to remain with Jesus, the Gerasene people beg Jesus to leave their territory because they lack faith. Jesus returns to His hometown of Nazareth, and He “was not able to perform any mighty deed there” because of their lack of faith. When we lack faith, we end up rejecting what Jesus offers.
I mention all of that not only because it’s in the readings this week, but because I think it’s a good point for us to consider as the All Things New process moves forward.
I receive a lot of feedback about All Things New! Some of it is enthusiastic, and some of it is resigned; some of it is a critique of the process, and some of it is angry. But all of that feedback is easy to bear when it’s rooted in faith. There’s a depth to what people say when it’s rooted in faith, and that depth comes through, even when the words are initially hard to hear. I’m grateful for all the feedback that’s rooted in faith. I believe it will bear fruit in helping us receive what Jesus is offering us.
Some of the feedback, however, seems more rooted in cynicism than faith. “This whole process is a sham: You’ve already decided what to do!” Actually, I haven’t. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy, and I have a whole team spending a lot of time and energy, listening to feedback and reformulating proposals. “This whole project is shameful: You’re just trying to take our money.” Actually, I’m not. Monies will stay with parish communities, however they’re reconfigured.
My point, though, is not so much the response I can give to each point, as the fact that some feedback doesn’t seem to be rooted in faith. There’s shrillness rather than depth in that feedback. I will still listen to it! But I don’t think it bears good fruit.
When we pray the Rosary, we pray for an increase in the virtue of faith. I hope we’ll all continue to engage in the All Things New process with faith. I believe that if we do, then all of our support and all of our critique will help us to receive what Jesus is offering us in the present moment.