Faith and Love are Inextricably Connected

When Jesus returned to his home town of Nazareth he was invited to preach in the synagogue. The people’s first reaction to him was favorable. They were astonished at the gracious words he spoke. However, their admiration for him soon turned into doubt, then into hostility. What went wrong?

They still saw him as just the carpenter’s son. They felt that if he had anything to offer, then they, the people of his hometown, should be the first to benefit from it. Without showing any real faith in him, they demanded that he do in Nazareth some of the wonderful things he had done elsewhere.

However, Jesus makes it clear that what matters is not who you are, but whether or not you have faith. There is no room in the Kingdom of God for privilege. God’s charity begins wherever there is human need, and the faith to receive it. He gave two examples: the cure of the widow of Zarephath and the cure of Naaman the Syrian, both of whom were Gentiles.

On hearing that the benefits they had rejected through lack of faith would be offered to the Gentiles, the people were outraged. As Jews, they were the People of God. Those others were outsiders and sinners. How dare Jesus suggest that the Gentiles would be preferred to them. In a burst of nationalist fervor they turned against Jesus. They took him from the synagogue and tried to get rid of him.

Why did they turn on Jesus and become so angry? The first reason was because of what he said. But there was a deeper reason. It was because he showed up the ugly things that lay hidden in them.

Regrettably, religion sometimes brings out the worst in people. It makes them narrower, more bigoted, and more apt to hate and even kill. We see an ugly example of this in the people of Nazareth. Unfortunately this kind of thing still happens. Religion can get distorted and turn into something repulsive such as narrow-mindedness, intolerance and fanaticism.

But religion can also bring out the best in people. It makes them more tolerant, understanding, compassionate and loving. True religion liberates the heart and the mind, and fosters harmonious relationships with others. Religion is beautiful when it is like this. The question the Gospel account today poses for our reflection is: What does religion bring out in me?

There is an essential link between faith and love as St. Paul said in our second reading: There are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love. What good is having faith and hope if we are lacking in love?

— Father Dennis, February 3, 2019