21 May 2017
6th Sunday of Easter, Year A
When I was in grade school, a friend and I would sometimes walk to his house. And on the way there was a big, old Victorian house; nobody lived there, and the windows were boarded up. Now I’m still not sure where I heard this, but the house was supposedly haunted. And I never had the urge to go find out if it was true.
And I bring up that little image because it highlights the tension between being on “the outside” and being on “the inside.” From the outside, I only knew what others told me. And so, I just assumed the house was haunted. But if I ever wanted to know for certain, I would’ve had to have gone into the house, and experienced the truth of it from the inside.
And this idea of standing on the outside or standing on the inside is important to our lives of faith. Jesus says, “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” And that sounds great. Except that, before Jesus reveals himself to us, we have to love him. In order to really know the depth of God’s care for us, first we have to keep his commandments. In other words, we can’t know God’s love from the outside; we can only know it from the inside.
And the keys to getting on “the inside” are trust, commitment, and faith. And those can be hard keys to use, because they all get at the idea of: believing in what lies ahead, even before it happens; putting trust in someone else, and being committed to that leap of faith. That’s how we get on “the inside” with God, and the Church.
I’m sure we’ve all heard people criticize the Church, or teach about how there isn’t a God, and how believers in that kind of thing are unintelligent or foolish or easily deceived. But where are those people standing? They’re standing on “the outside.” It’s easy to tear down something from the outside; it’s easy to pick apart something when they haven’t committed themselves to that thing.
On the flip side, it’s also easy to romanticize and glorify something from “the outside,” without really knowing what it’s all about. When “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them,” the people saw all that he was doing, and “there was great joy in that city.” But, really, those Samarians were still on “the outside.” Philip had introduced them to the faith, but they had to make the faith their own.
They had to “own it,” not from the outside, but from the inside. In order to own the faith, they had to live the faith—with both its joys and heartaches. And the Holy Spirit was given to them so they could do just that. The Spirit helped them use those keys of trust, commitment, and faith to get on “the inside” of their faith, and to see for themselves that what Christ said was true.
When Peter says, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts,” he’s giving us the “keyhole” into which we put our trust and faith and commitment. We hear it all throughout Scripture and the teachings of the Church: Trust in the Lord; let Christ be the Lord of our life.
When I was studying for priesthood, and I had to make the decision whether or not to actually be a priest, I remember thinking very clearly: “This is where the rubber hits the road. If I believe that the Lord is the Lord, and if I believe that he will take care of me in this vocation, then I need to just trust him. I need to throw caution to the wind, and just go with it.” And so I did.
I didn’t know what would lie ahead of me in priesthood. I didn’t know I would be coming here to St. Clare. I don’t know where I’ll go from here. And that’s okay, because I’m living the Christian life from “the inside.” This is similar, I imagine, to what it’s like to be married. You don’t really know about married life until you’re actually living the life.
There’s an old proverb that says, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” You won’t know how good (or bad) the pudding is until you put it in your mouth and swallow. I used to work at a bakery, and we were always encouraged to try the foods we baked. And that makes sense; after all, how’s a baker supposed to really sell anything if he or she hasn’t even tasted it.
A significant reason why Jesus made such an impact on people was the fact that he practiced what he preached; he walked the talk. He wasn’t preaching forgiveness and mercy from “the outside;” he was living it every day of his life; he was committed to it. And so when others criticized him for it, it didn’t bother him. He knew what was right and just and true. He knew it. And he knew it from being on “the inside,” from being one with the Father, from living the life.
If we want to know if what Christ says is true, then we also have to live the life—not from the outside, but from the inside. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. And the proof of Christ’s promises is in the living of a life of trust, commitment, and real faith.