The Essence of Christianity

"Trust God and God will help you;
trust in him, and he will direct your way;
keep his fear and grow old therein."

Our Old Testament reading today comes from the Book of Sirach and in it the author is encouraging the Jewish people during a very difficult time in the history of their nation, encouraging them to patiently trust in God.

In his book Buddenbrooks, the German author Thomas Mann, while not religious himself, seeks to discover the essence of Christian faith.  He does so by recounting the journey of a Lutheran family through three generations during the long nineteenth century.  The story begins as the family is building up its fortune and credibility, a time of growth, excitement, and hard work.  During this stage we see that Christian faith is filled with excitement, vitality, and the hard but rewarding work of discovering and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ--faith can bring purpose and inspiration to our lives.  The second stage comes as the family is established but seeks to reflect on its own place, its own motives, its own relationships.  During these years we see that Christianity calls us to reflect on our own existence and come to a deeper self-knowledge--faith helps us realize our true self.  The third part of the novel recounts the decline of the family, following them as death, misfortune, and struggle overtake their lives.  Here we recognize that our God accompanies us through the trials and tribulations of life--faith gives us strength in difficult moments.

Our Faith may play a different role at different times of our lives, but we can never doubt that our Lord accompanies us through it all.  God is with us as we grow, as we come to a deeper knowledge of ourselves, and in our moments of trial.


The New Colossus

This week's Gospel made me think of the beautiful poem written by Emma Lazarus, part of which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.  It's a great reflection on what it means to be a "city set upon a mountain":

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

-Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus