Bottom line: Jesus invites you to believe, to say to him, "I trust in you."
Today's readings address a fundamental question: How are we saved? How do we obtain eternal life? If there's a bigger question, I don't know what it is. Lots of people think you get to heaven by doing good deeds, by helping others. Those things matter but they are not the bottom line. It may surprise you that good deeds do not provide the key to eternal life.
If good deeds aren't the key, what is? St. Paul tells us: "By grace you have been saved through faith." To make it crystal clear he adds, "This is not from you; it is a gift from God so no one may boast." That's reason to rejoice isn't it? You notice I'm wearing rose vestments - the color for joy.
We can see that reason for joy in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:: "Our justification (salvation) comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us..." (#1996)
If that's the case does it mean we sit back and wait for God to act? Not exactly. Grace implies a response. After stating that our salvation - our justification - is a free gift Paul writes that we are "created in Christ Jesus for the good works God has prepared in advance." We should, he says, *live* in those good works.
And what precisely are the good works? In today's Gospel Jesus gives the most important work: to believe. Five times the Gospel uses the word "believe." Belief in this context is not so much intellectual, like 2+2=4. First and foremost belief means trust.
Many of you are reading The Case for Jesus. Some of you tell me that Dr. Pitre is helping you clear up some doubts, to make you more confident about the faith. Still, in the end each person has to face this question: Is Jesus Lord? Am I willing to say, "Jesus, I trust in you"?
To say "Jesus I trust in you" and mean it implies a response. At the beginning of Lent I gave you a little booklet: Finding Hope When Life Hurts. That book indicates the hard work we have to do in order live in the hope Jesus gives us.
Again the Catechism has this saying: "Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you." (#2834) We should understand that saying in light of what St. Paul says about being saved by faith - a free gift. By grace we have become God's handiwork created for the good works God has prepared for us.
At a recent Knights of Columbus meeting one member read a selection from the Gospel and each Knight had a chance to share. It was inspiring to hear those men talk about their love for the parish and for Jesus. They want to form families centered on Jesus.
Jesus desires to bless and strengthen our marriages. He wants to help young people in their spiritual warfare. For them as they prepare for Confirmation and for adults preparing for Easter Sacraments we have the Second Scrutiny - right after this homily. The Scrutiny is an exorcism prayer invoking Jesus power in our spiritual combat.
Jesus invites you to believe, to say to him, "I trust in you." Try to find a time today or this week when you can reflect on your life and no matter what difficulties you face, say "Jesus I trust in you." "God so loved the world," we hear, "that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." Amen.
From the Archives (Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B)
Year A (RCIA):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru