The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. (10:1-10) and The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (8:28-9:1)
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not complicated. It is a very simple way. St. Paul sums this way up quite well in today’s epistle reading when he says “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” So that is the heart of the good news that we have in Jesus Christ. We were all dead in sin, but through the grace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ became a man and taught us and He ultimately showed His deep for love for us by dying for us in order to share His life with us, His creation. We are saved through acknowledging the work of God in our lives, through our confession of faith and our belief of heart.
There are some groups and denominations who reduce this word “belief” to mean that our works have nothing to do with our salvation. That we simply need to believe in an intellectual or inner manner. But the teaching of the Church is quite clear. Belief is not an intellectual practice, it is a firm and life changing conviction. What we believe in the heart is believed so strongly and so intensely that it affects our every thought, movement, and our words.
If a wealthy man walks up to you on the street and writes you a check for one million dollars and hands it to you, does that make you a millionaire? No. In order to become a millionaire we must first believe that what we were given is genuine and true. If we are convicted in our heart that this check is good, then we still have to walk the check to the bank. Our firm conviction, our belief, is proved through our walk to deposit the check in the bank. So the gift was free, you can call it grace. But the faith that we demonstrate as a result of this grace is manifested as belief through our actions which bring faith to life.
That is the faith and belief in Christ that we are after. An intense and genuine belief in the Master of our lives who taught us and sacrificed Himself for us out of His intense love and His knowledge that we could become much more through Him. That we could be redeemed, healed and transformed through life in communion with the Trinity.
So powerful is this salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ that St. Paul who was raised as a Jew and a Pharisee of the Pharisees says “For Christ is the end of the law, that everyone who has faith may be justified.” In this St. Paul is referring to the law of Moses that was followed by all the Jewish people. The adherence to this law which was made up of hundreds of rules was understood to be the only way for the Jews to be saved. What then was the problem? The problem was that there was no one who could keep the law perfectly. As it is written in Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And besides that, the law itself could not give eternal life. It could only guide and point out sins.
Christ is the end of the law. That is a liberating statement. It frees us from dry legalism in order to deepen our relationship with the living God without fear. This is our salvation. The Lord wants to know us, He wants to put His hand on our lives and bless us. Don’t run away from Him in fear. Run to Him in faith and love. Run to prayer, which is His presence, every day, as often as you can think of it. Run to the Church, which is His body. Run to the sacraments which are His healing touch. Run also to serve others. For in serving them, we serve Him.
In today’s gospel we see the people running out to meet Christ but they do so for the wrong reasons, because they are wordly and attached to materialism. They run towards Christ only to run Him out of the city. They are more concerned for the pigs that they lost than for their own God given souls! We don’t want to be like them but our focus on worldly things can become such a predominant focus of our hearts that we lose track of what is most important.
It happens in subtle ways and creeps up in our life. We buy things that we can’t really afford, we live outside of our means or just barely scraping by, and then we have to work harder and longer hours to try to prop up this life that we have purchased for ourselves. By doing this we often ignore family, friends, our physical health and most of all, the health of our souls.All of our focus and energy can easily be turned away or distracted from life in Christ. Our faith would then be mere words or theory, a dead faith.
St. Bede writes “They alone know how to believe in God who love God, who are Christians not only in name but also in action and [way of] life, because without love faith is empty. With love, it is the faith of a Christian —without love, the faith of a demon.”
Let us not be like these poor impoverished people, chasing the Lord Jesus out of the city of our heart. But let us run to open the door of our hearts in dynamic faith. This is the faith that brings us to Christ and Christ to us and He alone is our salvation, together with His Father and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.