The Last Word - September 2017
Faith in Us
Let me set the scene for you. It’s the Last Supper, the night when Jesus will be arrested and the night before He will die on the cross. His earthly ministry is coming to its close. This is the time of the culmination of His work. It is the moment of crisis. He has been speaking to the disciples in what has been called his "Farewell Address." Then, He addresses the Father in prayer.
He is calm and in control. He confidently declares that He has completed the task given to Him; His job is done. And, as proof, He points to His disciples. “I have made your name known to them…They have kept your word…I have entrusted the message you gave me to them and they have accepted it.”
That is all well and good as far as it goes. But, to those of us who know what happens next, it is quite surprising. We know that within the hour they will all take to their heels. Peter, who makes loud and bold protestations at this supper, (“I will follow you wherever you go, I am even willing to die with you”) will deny Him three times before dawn. Knowing what we know, what can we make of Jesus’ words of confidence in His disciples to His Father?
Normally, we think in terms of the faith we are asked to place in God. We are challenged to put our trust in God, no matter what happens, no matter how bleak things sometimes get. But here we have something quite different. Here, we have God placing His faith in the disciples, placing His trust in us.
Now, it one thing to put your trust in God. I mean God is God, after all, and supremely trustworthy. But for God to put His trust in ordinary people, in us, that is another matter and very courageous, if not foolish. And, if God can place His trust in mere folks, is that not a challenge to us to do the same? Doesn’t the Gospel call on us to place our faith in one another, in the community of the disciples, in the community of faith, in the Church? Yet, to be honest that is a lot harder than putting our trust in God.
But that is the way I read this Gospel. Jesus places His faith in us and invites us to do the same. So while we surely express our faith in God through the Eucharist, we are also called to express our faith in each other, in the sinning and yet holy people God has called and entrusted with the task of bringing his work to completion.
As summer comes to a close, parish activities will multiply again, assuming things have slowed down this summer, as they always did in parishes where I served. We are reminded that Jesus has placed in trust in the very folks that surround us at Sunday Mass. And the Eucharist challenges us to do the same and, then, to get involved in a way that shows your faith in the Church.
Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Henchal