The faith that binds one person to another goes far beyond the intellectual assent that is its beginning. It becomes the uncompromising commitment of ourselves to another.
That such faith does not come easily is widely illustrated throughout the Scriptures. When Elijah the prophet was summoned to anoint Elisha as his successor, Elisha hesitated, seeking leave to bid his parents goodbye. Elijah dismissed this seemingly reasonable hesitation as unworthy of a prophet’s calling. The subsequent and total surrender of Elisha’s faith was represented in the sacrifice of the oxen and plough that had represented a previous way of life. If faith is to become the foundation of our lives, it must be without hesitation.
St Luke described the total faith of Jesus as he “resolutely took the road to Jerusalem”. Despite the death that awaited him, his commitment to the Father’s will was without compromise. He expected nothing less from those who would become his disciples. He probed the faith of the man who claimed that he would follow him wherever he went. “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Jesus was saying that faith cannot cling to the comfortable securities of the past. It must be willing to surrender everything so as to rest in the Father alone. Jesus, like Elijah the prophet before him, swept aside any hesitation that stood in the way of faith. There could be no return to bury the dead or to bid goodbye to the past.
The words of Jesus seem harsh and unfeeling. They must be balanced against his understanding of sin’s divided heart. We know from our own experience that, without the total surrender of ourselves to the Lord, faith tends to evaporate in compromise. True faith, far from threatening what is dear to our hearts, gives it a sure and lasting foundation. Compromise makes us slaves of the passing moment. Such was the faith of St Paul. “When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”
This article first appeared in the June 24 2016 issue of The Catholic Herald. To read the magazine in full, from anywhere in the world, go here.
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