The Challenge of Being Right
16 I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17 For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”
Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)
When relating these events in his Gospel, Saint Matthew continually emphasizes Joseph’s faithfulness. He kept the commandments of God without wavering, even though the meaning of those commandments was sometimes obscure or their relation to the rest of the divine plan hidden from him. The Fathers of the Church and other spiritual writers frequently emphasize the firmness of Joseph’s faith. Referring to the angel’s command to fly from Herod and take refuge in Egypt,7 Saint John Chrysostom comments: “On hearing this, Joseph was not shocked nor did he say: ‘This is strange. You yourself made it known not long ago that he would save his people, and now you are incapable even of saving him—we have to flee, to set out on a long journey and spend a long while in a strange place; that contradicts your promise.’ Joseph does not think in this way, for he is a man who trusts God. Nor does he ask when he will return, even though the angel left it so vague: ‘Stay there, until I tell you to return.’ Joseph does not object; he obeys and believes and joyfully accepts all the trials.”8 Joseph’s faith does not falter, he obeys quickly and to the letter. To understand this lesson better, we should remember that Joseph’s faith is active, that his docility is not a passive submission to the course of events. For the Christian’s faith has nothing whatever to do with conformity, inertia, or lack of initiative. Joseph entrusted himself unreservedly to the care of God, but he always reflected on events and so was able to reach that level of understanding of the works of God which is true wisdom. In this way he learned little by little that supernatural plans have a logic which at times upsets human plans.
There are days where it is a challenge to live by faith, to live in view of the brutal world where people are butchered, tortured, and enslaved. There are days where the pain is much closer, a friend struggling with cancer, a son dealing with the death of a parent, the parent dealing with the death of a child. It can even be more of an irritant, an argument among friends, or even a relationship being broken, a relationship between people who should be united, but can’t get past their brokenness.
Some may dismiss these latter things by noting that we are sinners, that we are supposed to be broken, that what we need to do is be confident in our absolution. Surely that is true for sins in our past, but the danger lies in assuming that such a lack of faith is appropriate for tomorrow. The lesson that some will hear is that we don’t have to be concerned about loving our neighbor, caring for the widow and orphan, and if we fail to because of self-interest or greed or apathy? Oh well, confess it, and be confident in your forgiveness.
St Josemaria, in talking about Joseph, quotes one of the key verses for Martin Luther. The just shall live by faith! But what does that mean? Does it mean that we are simply quickened (as the old Creed says) and are alive because of faith, or does it mean we actually LIVE, day by day, moment by moment, dependent on God, trusting Him for what He has promised, revelling in the joy of His presence, even when life sucks?
That is life by faith, life in Christ, real life, the kind of life that accepts what comes to us, trusting and depending on God. This was ultimately freeing to Luther, not just in absolution, but in living. For Joseph, Escriva claims it gave him the strength to obey the angelic visitation that occurred in dreams (unlike Mary who encountered the angel face to face.) He just went, because he trusted God. He went depending on God, despite the oddities, despite the lack of answers, despite the appearance that God didn’t care.
You want to be right? Live this way, dependent on God, so dependent that obedience becomes more natural, and that when we fail, we run for forgiveness – in both cases dependent on the promise of God… How does this grow? Through encountering Christ through His word, through sacraments like the Eucharist, and through prayer and meditation on Christ.
For this is life!
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1355-1371). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.