MINIMUM - MAXIMUM FAITH

Rev. John Kha Tran

Finding a bottle on the beach, Jake uncorks it and releases a genie. “Ah, now you get three wishes,” says the genie.

“Great!” Jake replies. “First I want $1 billion.” And poof! There’s a flash, and a paper with Swiss bank account numbers appears in Jake’s hand.

“Next I want a nice ocean-side house in Hawaii.” And poof! Another flash and he is holding the deed to an ocean-side property in Hawaii.

“Finally,” Jake says, “I want to be irresistible to women.” And poof! There’s another blinding flash, and Jake turns into a box of chocolates.

Human Desires

We are in the election season. Political candidates are paying polling experts to study public opinions. They want to find out what people want so that they can feed public desires and gain their majority votes. People of different interest groups, however, have different agendas. Some group wants healthcare reform; others want to repeal healthcare reform; some wants to raise taxes; others want to cut taxes. Some wants to promote policies on contraceptive birth control, abortions and same-sex marriage; others want to defend traditional form of marriage and family and to protect all forms of human life. Some says America is no longer a Christian country; it has become a country of multi-religions, cultures and ethnicities. Others want to restore America to its Judean-Christian heritage and protect the right of religious freedom. You may have your own opinions on these issues as well. It is impossible to have everyone to agree on these political issues. It seems that we don’t know what core American Values are anymore! Some government leaders and many public officials are making abortions, contraception, same-sex marriages their predominant topics of their campaign. We are promoting contraceptive birth control, abortion, same-sex marriage here in America as well as overseas, as if these are the main American values. Freedom of religion is not respected. Our government has to apologize because our citizens are exercising their right of freedom of speech in the U. S. Many people are not very happy with what is going on. We are talking, debating on various social, political, cultural, psychological issues and seeking solutions for America. I believe that we will never be able to find solution for our problems and be a prosperous and respected country unless we invite God back into our life and teach God’s way of life to our children and to the people of our country. We are not just sexual, social and political human beings. We are also religious and spiritual human beings. America was founded on the strong beliefs in God and Christian values. We have religious and spiritual desires. And these desires need to be satisfied as well. The desire to live is the basic human desire that every human being has. And this desire starts at conception. Once life begins, it has the desire to stay alive. No one can say that a fetus, unborn baby doesn’t have a desire to stay alive. As long as our society continue to promote the policy to terminate this desire to live from the unborn at the very beginning of life, we will continue to be unrest and unhappy.

The First Reading speaks about the wisdom of God. This wisdom is more valuable than health, wealth, beauty and even the light. To have this wisdom means to have joy and radiance that will bring us all the good things now and forever. The young man in the Gospel story seems to recognize this wisdom in Jesus. There is something special about this young man. There is no doubt that he is wealthy. But he is still feeling unfulfilled. His wealth has not given him a sense of fulfilling. He has heard Jesus speaking about eternal life. Eternal life sounds interesting to him. He begins to sense that he too has a desire for things beyond this life. He has religious and spiritual desires in his heart. So the man shows openly interested in Jesus.  He is willing to learn from Jesus. So he comes to Jesus and asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17).

A Call to Faith-Response

I just have an amusing thought. He doesn’t have to do anything to have eternal life. Everyone will have eternal life because our souls are eternal. But there will be eternal life in hell and eternal life in heaven. Eternal life in hell is eternal life in damnation. Eternal life in heaven is eternal life of salvation and happiness with God. What the young man wants is to seek the eternal life with Jesus Christ in heaven with God. There are certain requirements for anyone who wants to inherit eternal life of salvation in the Kingdom of God. The first condition is to be born again through baptism as Jesus says: “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit” (Jn 3:5). “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). “There is no salvation through anything else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12). “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world . . . Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:51-54).

This young man is a religious person. He has been carefully fulfilling his religious duty. He is honestly telling Jesus that he has kept all the commandments since his childhood. He has never killed anybody, never committed adultery, never stolen from anyone, never lied. He is better than all of us. Jesus looks at him, loves him and says, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me.”

In other words, Jesus is telling him “Okay, if you want eternal life with me, do what I am doing. Live the lifestyle that I am living.” The man walks away. He cannot do it. He cannot let go of things of the world. He cannot do what Jesus is doing. To Jesus, the things the young man has been doing are just the minimums. Jesus is telling him to maximize his commitment to the way to eternal salvation, but he cannot do it. He doesn’t want to take the next step to maximize his commitments, to reshape his priorities, to love God more than anything and anyone else and to love others as himself. He does not want to give up his current life style.

Renewing in Faith

According to a recent report, one in five Americans now self-identifies as religiously unaffiliated, even if 68 percent of these folks also say that they believe in God. The number is expected to keep growing, since among Americans under 30, one in three is now unaffiliated.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, recently, sends out an invitation to liberal, nominal or cafeteria Catholics: "It's time to consider quitting the Catholic Church!” There are various reasons: Because the Church wants to ban birth control and abortion. The child sexual abuse scandals by clergies, the lack of accountability of bishops on handling the sexual abuse crimes, the lack of compassion for gays who simply want to marry the person they love, for women who want to use birth control, for divorced people who want to remarry and to receive communion, the refusal of the men in Rome to allow female priests or married priests etc. Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon recently commented that only about 24 percent of the diocese's 710,000 Catholics attend Mass on a regular basis. The majority of Catholics aren't in the pews.

Pope Benedict XVI has designated this year a "Year of Faith" to mark the anniversary of Vatican II. Vatican II encourages the Church to openly dialogue with the modern world in order to guide and bring the world closer to the Kingdom of God; unfortunately many people, priests and religious took it the wrong way, and instead of evangelizing the secular world, they let the world to secularize the life of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI says, "Our role in the new evangelization is to cooperate with God and let people know what God has done."

So this year, together with the whole Catholic Church, we will celebrate the year of Faith by reactivate and reintegrate all the tasks of our faith:

  • The Faith we proclaim
  • The Faith we celebrate
  • The Faith in Moral living
  • The Faith in Prayers
  • The Faith in Communal life
  • The Faith in sharing

I want to suggest everyone to make the following resolutions to maximize our commitment to Faith:

  • I will take time to study the Catholic Faith and embrace the Catholic Teachings with ardent love and firm conviction.
  • I will faithfully celebrate and participate in the sacramental life of the Church through liturgies.
  • I will apply the Christian values and practice Christian virtues in my daily living, at home, at work and wherever I am.
  • I will take time to be with God daily in prayers to keep my faith alive, energized, and connected with God who is the Source of Life.
  • I will set aside certain amount of my time daily, weekly or monthly to serve the Church in ministries to build up God’s Kingdom on earth.
  • I will make conscious efforts to influence someone and bring them closer to God and to Christ with my Catholic faith.