This past Thursday, October 11th, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. For those not familiar with this event, it is commonly known as Vatican II and is often primarily recognized for having introduced the mass in the vernacular or common language, and for having turned the altars around. Mass in English and the priest facing the people was only one change that resulted from this momentous event in the Church’s life. There were 16 documents produced, ranging from the liturgy to our relations with other churches.
This past Thursday, in conjunction with the anniversary of Vatican II, the Church also began the year of faith which will accompany us until November 23 of next year.
But all this may be perhaps nothing more than a happy memory or another church thing to do, or at least it may seem that way. In actuality, the Year of Faith, is a time for us to enter into a sincere and honest reflection of not just the faith, this vague and distant idea that the priest have to worry about, but a moment in which we pause and reflect on who I am as a part of the Church, and if the Church’s mission is to evangelize, how I participate in that. It is a moment to reconnect with our own faith or to help it grow.
So what do Year of Faith and Vatican II have to do with today’s readings? Well, you see, we enter this year of faith as a people of faith, but we are also being called upon to enter as intentional people. People willing to participate, not just in church events, but in authentic and honest self-reflection. We are called to reflect on who I am and who God is in my life. What does faith mean to me and how do I live out the faith every day?
And just in case we’re still not sure of how to “self-reflect,” we see in the Gospel today this young man who lived his faith in such a way that at least exteriorly, he could be held in high regard as a model Jew. But when asked to go beyond the exterior, when enjoined upon by Jesus to enter a more profound and spiritual faith, when asked to be more vulnerable, he saddened and walked away. Even after Jesus looks at him with love, he is unable to respond, he is unable to take the “leaf of faith,” unsure about really trusting God who calls.
Going back to the second Vatican Council, we see the response of John XXIII to this same invitation, to enter into a place where he, and the Church, where we become open, vulnerable to the movements of the Spirit. In declaring that a council would be convened, John XXIII, invited the Church to self-reflect, and in effect, to enter into a more profound relationship with Christ. His response was a yes to the conversion that we are each constantly in need of, because of sin or other factors, we need to draw closer to Christ, to look at our riches and to be able to heed the call to follow HIM. Instead of hearing his voice, and missing out on the love with which he calls. There was great fear when John XXIII called the Council, but ultimately, that is our own journey, one in which we are open to the movements of the Holy Spirit, where we are compelled by that same Spirit to move and very often to move into the unknown, in faith. And so we must ask ourselves, and perhaps it’s a good starting point for the Year of Faith, where am I like the young man? Am I too rich to follow Jesus, or am I able to walk in faith into the unknown, believing and trusting that even there, in the mystery of tomorrow, God is already at work?
This year of faith is a time to do just that, to look at ourselves, at our lives and at our relationship with Christ and to heed God’s call that in doing so, we may not only grow in faith, but also in God’s life-giving love that can call us beyond even fear and death. Let us be people of life that unlike the young man, are able to listen and respond with an interior faith. Let us be people that walk into the heart of God, where hope enkindles that Spirit that has guided many others, that same loving Spirit, with which Christ spoke. May we, together, be people walking in Christ, along the narrow way, and not those who stand to the side as they watch the camel go through the eye of the needle. May we see the Church, us, rest in Christ, for he calls with love. And we respond in faith. As always, know that you are loved. Fr Rick