Homily, 14th Sunday in ordinary time B
A general reported to Napoleon, citing several reasons why his army was defeated by the enemy: bad weather, the soldiers were tired and especially they were outnumbered by the enemy. Napoleon said: “ There was no reason whatsoever for your defeat except that you did not believe you could win. It was the lack of confidence and faith in yourselves that you were defeated.”
Before giving treatment, medical doctors also demand their patients to have faith in them; if the patients do not have faith in their doctors, they can not be cured. But if they have faith in their doctors then they have already been half-cured. Faith is an important element in all our success. It creates power, a power which people with no faith cannot have.
An American woman was driving alone with her three-year old daughter. When she came across a forest, she got a flat tire. As she began to change the tire, the jack suddenly collapsed and the whole weight of car was on her daughter. Desperately but with faith, the woman raised the car by herself to save her daughter without anyone around to help. Ordinarily, it needs at least four strong men to lift up the car, but here in this case one woman alone was able to raise the car. And she did this for the love of her daughter and with an incredible faith in herself.
If natural faith is that necessary, how much more is the faith in God? In today’s Gospel, Jesus Christ was surprised at his own people’s attitude, and he could not work any miracle, because they had no faith. Indeed, our faith is the basis for God to work many good things and to give us favors and grace. If we have no faith, then God cannot work on us. That is why, every time Jesus Christ performs a miracle of healing sick persons, he always says : “It is your faith that saves you.”
“Faith is not something we can see on every street-corner, but we dare not cross the street without it. If faith were removed for one day, our whole way of life would collapse.” (V. Carney Hargroves, ibid).
Of course, faith is something which is freely given to us by God, but God always demands a least co-operation on our part, that is, our willingness, our preparedness to let God work on us, our openness to respond to the word of God. If we are not ready to receive God’s grace, then his grace cannot come to us. Just as a soil which is not able to absorb water, then water simply cannot be absorbed.
Last week, we made a bus trip across Cambodia to Bangkok. Throughout the journey of over a thousand kilometers we did not see any church at all; it seems that God is totally unknown to these lands and peoples. I was wondering what was the reason that made God so strange to them. Was it because there were no missionaries to come here to preach the Gospel to them. Historical facts prove just the opposite : there have been many western missionaries who came to these two countries the same time they came to Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines, but they did not succeed here as they did in Vietnam, Korea and the Philippines. Perhaps, these peoples have been so deeply rooted in Buddhism that they are not ready to receive the Good News of God. They simply lack the faith, the willingness necessary for the reception of the Gospel.
Let us be thankful to God for the gift of faith given to our Vietnamese forefathers. Through them the merciful God continues to bless us with the grace of faith, so that the Church in Vietnam has been flourished and prospered as we see today. In fact, Vietnam has become one of the cradles of faith and vocation in this part of the world, a springboard for future evangelization in Asia.