Strong Faith Sustains Us

11-03-2019From the Pastor's DeskMsgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

Last Sunday afternoon we celebrated a special Mass for couples in our parish who are celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries. There were people married 65, 60, 55, 50, 40, and 25 years present. At that Mass I felt so privileged to celebrate with them. They are a true sign of faithfulness and love that models God’s love for us in Jesus. Their faithfulness in the good times and bad, sickness and health has enriched each of them, brought new life into the world and the Church in their children, and makes the last line of the wedding vows real and joyful: I will love you and honor you all the days of my life. How good it was to be in the presence of couples who have lived those vows and have become a blessing to each other, their families, and the Church.

This past week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdayevenings, we had the blessing of a parish retreat givenby Jim Ryan. Jim spoke at all the Masses lastweekend about the upcoming retreat. Many peoplecame and were enriched by his simple, real, practicalways we can find peace, happiness, hope, andfulfillment in our daily lives. There are so many thingsand people to be grateful for in our lives. Of course theultimate source of life, hope, joy, inspiration, andmeaning comes from our faith. Life lived with faith inGod as the foundation of who we are enables us to befully alive in all we say, think, and do each day.

Last week we received a pastoral letter fromBishop Barres entitled “Heart Speaks to Heart.” It waswritten on the occasion of the canonization of St. JohnHenry Newman on October 13, 2019, a man who firstembraced the Anglican Faith of England and becamean Anglican priest. He was a great preacher andscholar. But his search for God led him to convert toCatholicism and he went through the program of studyin theology and was ordained a Catholic priest. Heserved as a parish priest, rector of the CatholicUniversity of Ireland and named a Cardinal. His wholelife was a quest for truth which led him to the CatholicChurch in the first place. He recognized and embracedthe faith that continually inspired and led him to livethe truth that we are as creatures created in the veryimage and likeness of God. In this we find the truemeaning and direction in our lives in the Church Jesusestablished and of which you and I are a part.

We live in a national culture that is separating usfurther and further from the truth of who we are andhow we can be fully alive. In another book I amcurrently reading entitled “The Day Is Now Far Spent”by Cardinal Sarah, his basic insight is that the worldand our societies are in chaos because we have lostthe gift of faith. Instead of looking to God and the richlegacy we have received from Him as Father, Son,and Holy Spirit and the Church which immerses us inHis life, we are rejecting the Ten Commandments, theteachings of Jesus, and the rich legacy of our Catholictradition in the name of freedom. Freedom without afoundation leads to utter chaos and builds a wall andputs individuals, groups, fellow citizens, and nations atodds with one another. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I amthe way and the truth and the life. No one comes to theFather except through me.” In his letter about St. JohnHenry Newman Bishop Barres says, “Newmanunderstood that religious truth still makes a vitalcontribution, principally by offering what science cannot.Religion provides a complete picture of the person - his orher origin and destiny. Precisely because it proposessuch invaluable insights, Newman grasped that religioustruth is forgotten only to society’s detriment.”

Growing up in the fifties and going to religiouseducation classes, there was a great emphasis on whatdisobeying the Ten Commandments or teaching of Jesusled to - eternal separation from God and the fires of hell.Sin is anything that separates us from God and loving oneanother as He loves. Jesus would not have told us to loveone another as He loves us if He thought we were notcapable. Sin blinds us to the good we are capable of andleads us to become protective, suspicious, angry, spiteful,vengeful, and self-righteous. Only a strong faith cansustain us. What will strengthen our faith? Trust in Jesuswhich comes only if we take the time to be with Him inprayer and the sacraments.

In today’s Gospel we see a man who seems to haveeverything materially he wants but knows there issomething missing. This is the story of Zacchaeus who isa tax collector and not liked by his fellow countrymen.Being short of stature he climbs a tree to see Jesus walkby. But Jesus does not walk on by. He looks up and tellsZacchaeus that He is coming to his house that day.Onlookers are skeptical and wonder why Jesus wouldbother with Zacchaeus. This line from the first readingsays it clearly how God sees Zacchaeus and us: “For youlove all things that are and loathe nothing that you havemade; for what you hated, you would not havefashioned.” (Wisdom 11:24) God created us so He couldlove us and we would find the ultimate joy and meaning inlife: humbly, gratefully loving Him in return and loving oneanother as He loves. Every day Jesus is ready to come toour “house.” He welcomes the opportunity to spend timewith us and wants us to know we are always in His heart.How far do we open the door of our hearts to Him? Jesuson the cross shows us how wide the door of God’s heartis to us. All we have to do is make the choice to spendtime with Him. There are not threats of damnation oranger at past refusals to pray or times we have sinned.There is only a warm, joyful, life-giving welcome. PleaseLord, come and spend time in my “house” my open,hungry heart. He never refuses and an invitation and isalways inviting us into His heart. As we hear in theResponsorial Psalm today: “The Lord is faithful in all hiswords and holy in all his works. The Lord lifts up all whoare falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” (Psalm145)