5th Sunday Ordinary Time A

Your Faith Rests Not On The Wisdom Of Men

During the Nazi era in Germany, one of the strongest Catholic leaders in the German Reich was Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber (1869-1952). An able Bible professor, he long taught courses on the Old Testament in the University of Strassburg. Then in 1911 he was named bishop of Speyer: and in 1917, Archbishop of Munich. Pope Benedict XV raised him to the rank of Cardinal in 1921.

A few years after Faulhaber received the “red hat,” Adolf Hitler began to rise into power. The Cardinal held Hitler in little esteem. As a nobleman, he disdained this Austrian upstart; as a churchman he disapproved of his ideology. In the early 1930’s when Hitler’s Nazis began to peddle their deadly philosophy, the Cardinal boldly condemned racism, neo-paganism and totalitarianism from his cathedral pulpit, basing his sermons on the scriptures with which he was so familiar. Particularly notable was his Advent sermons of 1933, in which he emphasized that Christianity had its roots in Judaism.

As an intellectual, Cardinal Faulhaber was also not at all uncomfortable in conversing, and even sparring, with other savants. There is a famous story of his chat with the great Nobel physicist – Jewish but agnostic -Albert Einstein (1879-1955).

Einstein and the Cardinal met on one occasion, and during their conversation the scientist said: “I respect religion, but I believe in mathematics. Probably it is the other way round with your Eminence, isn’t it?”

“No,” Faulhaber quietly replied, “to me both are merely different expressions of the same divine truth.”

But Einstein responded, “If mathematical science should prove one day that some of its findings are in direct conflict with religious beliefs what would you say then?”

“Oh,” said the Cardinal with a smile, “I share the highest regard for mathematicians and I am certain that in such a case you people would never rest until you found out where your mistake was!”

St. Paul says much the same to us in today’s second reading. “Your faith rests not on the wisdom of men but on the power of God.”

-Fr. Robert F. McNamara

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Q305: How can I put new “life” into the “salt” and “light” metaphors that Jesus uses in today’s gospel (Matt. 5:13-16)?

Think of your Christian calling to be a “witness” and “example” for others, when reading about Salt and Light.

In our First Reading today (Isaiah 58:7-10) Israel is called to share basic necessities with the less fortunate — simple things like food, shelter and clothing. The Lord says, through Isaiah, that these actions are like a “Light” that suddenly breaks forth like dawn eliminating a gloomy night. Similarly, the Lord tells us, again through Isaiah, that our calling is also to be pro-active in the pursuit of social justice for those denied such basic rights. Their gloomy “darkness” will be eliminated by God’s glorious light shining through you.

By living as a witness to selflessness, meaning to God’s compassionate caring by our outreach to others, we act as examples that draw others to Jesus; we become “catalysts” of grace, magnets of the kingdom. This was one of the functions of “Salt” in the time of Jesus, to be a catalyst used in cooking (oven lining) and thereby generate more heat. Accordingly, Jesus wants us to be his “catalyst,” his channel of grace, his method of reaching out to others with his very own compassionate love.

Isn’t this the most fundamental call of all Christians who believe in the Good News? God manifests his power through our weaknesses (Second Reading – 1 Cor 2:1-5), not through our own wisdom. We spread the Good News of God’s love when we share (alms), when we care (outreach) and via prayer (intercession).

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Salt and Light are not idle words; they are metaphors for Mission (CCC #782). This mission takes us down a path of evangelization, self-sacrifice, and service (CCC #852). Whenever you see the Easter candle by the baptismal font, remember its meaning: the baptized have become “the light of the world” in Christ, the true Light (CCC #1243).

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Let your Little Light Shine

Jesus seems to contradict himself In Chapter 6 of Matthew’s Gospel he tells us to do our good deeds in secret and to pray in private. But today’s reading tells us the opposite: Let your good deeds be seen like a city on a hill or a lamp in a dark room. How come? There really isn’t any contradiction. In Chapter 6 Jesus talking about our reason for doing good things, especially to get attention and self-glorification. Today he is describing the wider effects of being good. Isaiah’s prophecy was a call to the people of Israel to mend their ways. If they respond to that call they will be a light shining in the darkness, a light which reflects God’s loving concern for his people. Jesus tells us that the disciple who lives up to the ideal portrayed in the Beatitudes is pursuing self-giving and service to others, not self glorification. By that very fact the true Christian will be a light to the world, showing God present and active in the world. Then will the risen Christ be made visible — loving and active in the lives of his disciples.

Father, you have called us to be your light shining in the world for all to see. Teach us to be attentive to others and to respond to their needs. May the light of Christ’s presence always shine in our hearts and may we live in that light forever.

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