Friday, March 19, 2010

Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary: Faith and Justice, a Matter of Vision and Action

The readings for today's Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, give a great deal of insight into the "structure and dynamics" of Judeo-Christian faith and the relationship between faith and justice (Rom 4:22). The second reading from Paul's letter to the Romans talks about how Abraham was promised by God to become the "father of many nations" and even that he would "inherit the world." Abraham, hoping against hope and despite his old age, came to believe in this promise and it was credited to him as "righteousness" or "justice." Similarly, in today's Gospel reading from Matthew, Joseph is instructed in a dream by an angel to "hope against hope" that God's will could be realized through a virginal conception wrought by a mysterious Holy Spirit. Both Abraham and Joseph were asked to "go out on a limb" in believing that God could do something in their lives unprecedented in history and effectively "bring into existence that which does not exist." (Rom 4:17). Because of their willingness to believe in the near "unbelievable" promises of God and their openness to the vision and dream of God for their lives, they both were deemed righteous or just.

These stories of Abraham and Joseph and the outcome of their stories give great insight into the structure and dynamics of faith and the relationship between faith and justice. To begin with, these stories suggest that the structure of Judeo-Christian faith is so much more than mere "orthodox" belief or recitation of creedal formulas. Rather, faith is founded on putting one's trust in God and his promise to do great things, even to "bring into existence that which does not exist." In other words, faith is based on both a Person and a Promise. For Christians, the person is a Triune God and the promise is to bestow the gift of resurrected life, a "New Heavens and a New Earth", to all who open themselves to dream this near impossible dream. The dynamics of faith are such that it entails assent of mind and heart and movement of hands and feet. In the case of Abraham and Joseph, their faith was ratified not only by sharing in a vision or believing in a dream but following through with concrete actions to make that vision and dream a reality. Finally, the relationship between faith and justice that these stories highlight is that justice is not only a matter of action but vision. Martin Luther King Jr's famous "I Have a Dream" speech is a powerful testimony to the fact that for justice to take on flesh in the form of concrete actions it must first captivate the human heart and imagination. As with Abraham and Joseph, the key to realizing God's justice in our day is to believe against belief, and hope against hope, that God can bring into existence from the raw materials of our life and world that which does not yet exist: namely, the New Heavens and New Earth, where the righteousness of God can fully dwell. Pat, TOR