Habakkuk 2:9-14, II Corinthians 3:12-18
January 22, 2017
Two weeks ago, we had our “Recommitment Sunday.” And as we’ve been doing for the past several years, we used that Sunday – the day we celebrate “The Baptism of Jesus” – as a day to remember our own beginnings of faith, and as a time to recommit our lives to that same Jesus.
I hope I gave you pause to think about that time in your life, the time when you first came to faith. I remember my own. I was a Junior in High School, and even though I had been raised in the church, and I had often thought about what comes after this life, and I even knew who Jesus was, I had never really made a firm commitment to follow him. And so one day I did. I remember that clearly, andd I’ve always looked to that as a milestone in my life ever since.
What about you? When did that first happen for you? Were you young? Were you younger? Or did you live the “greater part of your life” already before you came to that commitment to Christ. Or have you never come to that commitment? If not, please, let’s talk about that!
Some people never talk about that, even after the fact. Some talk of nothing else. I remember a man I knew years ago named Walter. Walter was a real “saint” of the Church. But Walter rarely talked about anything else in his faith. Whenever he talked about spiritual things, he always told everyone the day, the year, the hour, and the circumstances of his “conversion,” of his making that commitment.
That’s great. Don’t get me wrong! But it always seemed that there was something lacking there. I loved Walter, but I always longed to hear that there was more to learn, more growth, more moving forward in his life of faith. And I never heard that.
That’s what I want us to think about today. Yes, it’s important to remember the beginnings of our faith. It’s important that we remember the “first love” we had for God at that time of beginning. But it’s also important that we continue to move forward in our faith, it’s important that we grow.
Paul knew that. His writings are filled with that thought. He wrote to the Hebrews about the need to “run with perseverance, the race set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) In our scripture for today, he told the Corinthians that “with unveiled faces, …we are being changed into the likeness of Christ, from one degree of glory to the next.” (II Corinthians 3:18 ) He told the Ephesians that we are to “grow in maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13) And to the Philippians he said this of himself. “Straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Do you get the picture? You see the thing with Walter happens to a lot of people. And not just that that’s all they talk about. For a lot of people, it’s more a matter that they live their lives of faith without that “moving forward.” They live their lives of faith feeling “just fine” with “salvation alone.” They live their lives, doing what I call “The minimum of faith.” “Just get me to heaven.” they would say. Or better yet, “Just keep me out of that ‘other place.’” Of course, nowadays, there are many people who just prefer not to “believe in” the other place! So the need for salvation is moot. And of course, the need for a savior is eliminated.
That’s not the point of the faith! The “minimum of faith” is not the point of faith! It’s not the objective of faith. Yes, salvation is great! Yes, eternal life is amazing. Don’t get me wrong! But our faith is about eternal life with God! It’s about “…enjoying him forever!” as the Catechism states. And that starts with the life in the here and now! That starts in this earthly life! I think we need to be reminded of that from time to time! (Maybe every day!)
Like a parent who wants the best for a beloved child, so our God wants the best for us in this life. Think about that. Parents can not and do not protect their children from all of life’s ills. What they want is for their children to grow into a mature adults who will be equipped to handle life’s ills, and still find the joy of life! That’s what we want for our children, isn’t it? Is it any wonder that’s what God wants for us?
But too often we forget all of that. We think of life with God as something we will have “some day.” (If we merit it!) We “go through the motions” of faith. We do all the “religious things.” And we forget that “the motions,” the “religious things” are all good, but their purpose is to point us to and enhance our relationship with God! They help us to grow, and to “move forward” in that relationship! Because growth in that relationship is what our faith is about!
Throughout the New Testament we are told about a faith that is a journey, a progression. We “run with perseverance the race set before us.” “We are changed from one degree of glory to the next.” “We press on for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” That’s what we are called to do and to be! It’s not just about whether or not we’re “saved.” It’s about how we live! Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it more(?) abundantly! That’s God wants that for us. He wants us to be equipped to face the ills of life with peace and joy! Isn’t that what we want, too?
Do we do that? Do I do that? Not always. I’ve had some dark times. But if you know my friends, they’ll tell you that I managed to have joy, no matter what. Were there tears in my life? Yes! Was there ever heartache or frustration or pain? You’d better believe it! Did I ever forget that abundance? Of course. That’s why this is a growing process!
I’ve got more growing to do, despite having now passed my 60th year! So these verses are still very important to me. I know that it’s far to easy to “rest on one’s laurels,” to think and talk only of the day of commitment, and to forsake the hard work of “pressing on” and “running with perseverance.”
So, let’s do this together! Together, “we are being changed into the likeness of Christ from one degree of glory to the next.” So let’s keep moving forward! Let’s continue to seek to grow in our faith. Let us learn to live this life of abundance, to be equipped to handle the ills of this life, no matter what. Let us “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Eternal God, help us to have the strength and perseverance we need to grow in our faith and to live in the hope of Jesus Christ our Lord. Help us to look to him as we run this race of life, seeking his maturity, living in his grace and his love, being gracious and loving ourselves. For we pray in his name, Amen.