Written by Michael Fones
Thursday, 19 April 2007 10:58
While preparing last night to preach this morning, I looked at the "New Testament Message" commentary on the Gospel of John by James McPolin, S.J. At the conclusion of his commentary on the encounter in the third chapter of John between Jesus and Nicodemus, McPolin added a section titled, "The Gospel of Belief" which I found quite interesting. I'll share a bit of it with you.
"Faith is the key theme not only of Jesus' dialogue with Nicodemus and the rest of the chapter but also every chapter in the gospel is about faith, from beginning (1:9-13) to end (20:30-31). Therefore it has been rightly called the gospel of belief. Still, not once does the abstract word "faith" occur in the gospel because there is only the personal activity of believing which is almost exclusively directed towards the person of Jesus. One may believe something about Jesus, for example, that he is Messiah and Son of God (20:30-31) or give credence to him by accepting as true what he says (2:22). But the element of personal commitment to Jesus is expressed in the most frequent phrase: "believing into" Jesus: "He who believes in (to) me has eternal life" (6:47; 3:18)
This "believing in (to)" Jesus goes far beyond accepting his message for it is a movement towards the person of Jesus, an attachment to him as the promised one and Son of God in such a way that the believer appropriates the very life of Jesus. Thus faith means to enjoy a life-giving relationship with him and to give oneself to Christ in dedication and full confidence.... Furthermore, believing in Jesus leads to "knowing" him; but this knowledge extends beyond the understanding of faith (6:69) and includes the experience of the person of Jesus in understanding and love, and a fellowship and communion of life with him (17:3)..."
Yesterday on Fr. Dwight Longenecker's blog, "Standing on My Head," he mentioned that he had been a speaker at the Evangelical Catholic Institute at which Sherry also spoke. He received several comments from people who were skeptical about EC - one, who was very concerned about orthodox belief, even went so far as to claim there was nothing on their website even remotely Catholic. But here's a quick quote from EC's welcome page:
"Jesus' ministry represented a continual invitation to a life of purpose and abundance that is discovered through communion with God, fellowship with His people, and mission to the world.
The Evangelical Catholic extends this same invitation, welcoming you to experience the profound love of God and to reflect that love in relationship. This transformational experience serves as the foundation and wellspring of our ministry, our deepest calling, and the very mission of the Church universal-calling people to interior conversion in Christ, helping people to grow in their faith, discerning and sharing our personal gifts in his Body, and transforming society by the power of the gospel."
I find it disturbing that a Catholic might read this and suspect that somehow it's creeping Protestantism.
We are hearing from the Gospel of John throughout this Easter season. Is our Catholic culture such that we don't recognize the call - the demand - for personal conversion and relationship to Jesus? How can I participate "fully, actively, and consciously" in the Mass if I'm not consciously seeking transformation in the encounter with Christ's body, blood, soul and divinity? How effective is the grace poured out upon me in any of the sacraments if I'm not willing to allow Christ to prune all that is unfruitful and un-Christlike from me? Can we say with St. Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me" (Gal 2:19b-20a)? How can I participate fully in the Mass if I'm not willing to offer myself in loving obedience to the Father with Jesus in his one, perfect sacrifice?
The assent to doctrine alone does not constitute a saving faith. Orthodoxy is necessary, but right doctrine alone does not save us. Otherwise, the Pharisees wouldn't have come under Jesus' critique. The Council of Trent, in chapter 7 on justification, says, "For faith, unless hope and charity be added thereto, neither unites man perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of His body. For which reason it is most truly said, that Faith without works is dead and profitless..." Faith informed by love of God and neighbor, made joyful by the hope of salvation that is ours in Christ is a living faith - a faith that transforms our lives. It is a faith that is, at its foundation, a relation with Jesus.
Is the Gospel of John evangelical? Of course! The word evangelical comes from the Greek for "Good News!" And, of course, it's Catholic. After all, we included it in the canon of inspired texts!
Let's hear the call to become Beloved Disciples of Jesus that is contained on each page. Moreover, let's respond to that call.