Spirituality of the Readings
Jesus cannot work miracles. At least in this Sunday’s Gospel.
When he returned to his home-town, Nazareth,
he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
What happened to his mighty deeds? Where did his power go? The words of Jesus might help here. He often said to people whom he had healed,
your faith has saved you.*
At first glance, this saying seems crazy. If an action called “faith” were all it took to save a person, it would imply no connection to God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit. People would just squeeze out an “act of faith” and that would be all they needed.
So, we need to look at what “faith” is all about.
There are many legitimate meanings of the word. One is when we “profess our faith,” or in other words, proclaim the content of our belief. The Catechism of the Catholic Church spends over 1,000 paragraphs clarifying such a profession [here]. Then there are the Sacraments from liturgy, called the “sacraments of faith” They are sacred symbols that make present the grace of Christ. And of course there is the “life of faith,” which is how believers give care for others after Mass.
All these meanings are good, and very important. But here are words from the Catechism that express the meaning of the word “faith” as Jesus used it.
Faith is a personal act—the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself (Catechism, Paragraph 166).
Look at it: faith here refers to an interaction between oneself and Jesus, a relationship steeped in trust and love.
If a husband says to his wife, “I have faith in you,” and if he means it, and if his wife says the same, then they are working toward real love. The same goes for the faith we are talking about here. The deepest meaning of faith is this: to have a mutual relationship with God. That is,
to receive God's love and respond to it.
Faith is a mutual act between Jesus and a person. He offers to give himself to each of us. We (often) receive him. A failure in faith is like closing or even locking the doors to our hearts.
If this makes some sense to you, then you will see why Jesus said “your faith has saved you.” If faith is a word for a person's relation to Jesus, the curing happens because they have a real, bilateral relationship in trust and love.
In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is so disappointed when he teaches in his home town. His neighbors say,
“is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him. …
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
His relationship to the people of his home town seems to have been a non-relationship. He could not force the two-way bond called “faith” upon them. He offered it, they refused.
No wonder he could not “perform any mighty deed there.”
John Foley, SJ
**From Saint Louis University