14th Sunday, YR B, 4 July, 2021: Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6
Certainly, Jesus’ one-time neighbors knew of his healing miracles or no one would have showed up for the healings mentioned at the conclusion of today’s Gospel. All of them heard him teach in their synagogue. But miracles and the proclamation of God’s Word cannot generate faith.
We cannot desist from performing the marvelous work God empowers us to do. We can never stop announcing the Good News. But neither miracles nor proclamation can generate faith. Faith makes healings possible. Faith—that existential trust in God—receives the Word of God. This is why Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the parable of the sower and the seed—and why we hear that parable so often in the Liturgy. Faith is the receptive and fertile soil which alone can prosper the Word in our lives.
Isn’t it odd how often we forget this! How many programs for renewal announce in greater quantity what believers need to do or believe? How often do pastors try to change parishioners by preaching? But if there isn’t a living faith to receive the message, what will come of this?
Can we generate faith?
First and last, Faith is a gift from God; that’s not to say that God is a stingy giver. Could it be that we do not always recognize or bother to receive the gift offered?
What can we do? We can listen and be present to one another, in time of crisis or doubt or disorientation. When I am vulnerable, then I may be ready to receive the gift offered. The bishop has to leave the chancery, the preacher has to leave the pulpit, the worshipper has to leave the pew and be there for the friend, the confrere in community, the colleague, the family member, the employee, the parishioner, and walk with them.
I may not be able to give someone my faith, my trust in God, but I may be able to embody it. More words aren’t needed, but more presence and receptivity.
And it’s humbling. I must listen from my vulnerability, remembering the force of my own doubts, questions, fears—all those incongruous, challenging gifts from God. And then, I will not necessarily be the right person to do this for everyone. I must recognize when I need to step back and allow a more likely person to accompany the individual in travail. And trust that I’m not the only one who can clear a space for faith to breathe.