Memorial of Saint John Baptist de la Salle, Priest

Lectionary: 270

Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.

Rabbi Abraham Joseph Heschl wrote of faith:

Faith is real only when it is not one-sided but reciprocal. Man can rely on God if God can rely on man. We may trust in God because he trusts in us. To have faith means to justify God's faith in man. It is as essential that God believe in man as that man should believe in God. Thus faith is awareness of divine mutuality and companionship between God and man. (Man is not Alone; Page 175)

Jewish spirituality has a vibrant sense of the human participation in relationship with God. Not only does God make demands of us, but we can and should make demands of God. For instance, in the Book of Job, the old man avows his fidelity and innocence and demands to know why he has been punished so severely. He will not be satisfied with the answers of other sages who tell him he has obviously sinned because God would not do this otherwise. His wife, even less sympathetic, advises him, “Curse God and die!”

Even before Job there is Abraham who, with many apologies, persists in bargaining with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. God finally has to walk away from him because Abraham will not be satisfied until the cities and every last citizen are spared.

The following day, as Abraham watches the cities burn from a distant hilltop, we can only wonder what he must have been thinking. But he seems to have been steeling himself for the next encounter when God will demand the sacrifice of Isaac. 

That courage before God enables Jews to challenge human authorities.  Their prophetic tradition sometimes makes them unwelcome before insecure kings, emperors and dictators.

Saint John Baptist de la Salle, Priest
But it also demands fidelity to God of the human being. Only just persons may complain about how God manages the universe; others have no standing. Those who falsely think they should have such a voice “because I’ve not killed anybody!” meet stony silence.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus urges us to “accept his testimony” and certify that God is trustworthy. As beautiful and necessary is God’s presence in our world, it means nothing if his people do not certify that God is worthy of our trust.

Trust, like faith, is a two-way street. It must be earned and it must be given. If I have experienced betrayal at another’s hands, I may withdraw my trust. If that person repents and wants me to trust him again, I may choose how far and under what circumstances I might trust him.

Jesus demonstrates a trust in God almost beyond imagining. Despite everyone's well-intentioned advice he goes up to Jerusalem. Betrayed by one of his closest friends he falls into the hands of his enemies but will not condemn them. Dying by crucifixion, he still believes that God – the One he calls Father – is worthy of absolute and total trust. His faith will not be vindicated until he is dead and buried through a long Sabbath rest.  

Rightly is he compared with Abraham who -- for all intents and purposes -- murdered his son in the confidence that God would keep his word and that future generations of people -- as many as the stars in the sky or grains of sand on the seashore -- would be born of him. How that was supposed to happen he could not imagine. 

Nor can we imagine how God will get us out of our present scrapes. (Reader's choice of which ones!) But with the Spirit of Jesus to prod us along we believe that God is worthy of our trust, and in that same Holy Spirit we too will be proven worthy  of God's trust in us. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.