have been given the title of “A Living
Faith that Makes a Difference” to preach
today. The “difference” here I presume
is referring to the difference to people’s
lives. This is a good topic because we cannot
speak of a living faith that does not make a
difference . . . because such a faith is a faith
that is dead!
today’s Gospel, Jesus clearly wants all
of us (priests, religious and lay people), without
exception to have a living faith . . . a living
faith that must influence, affect and infect
others with a joy that comes forth from our hearts.
We should have this joy welling from our hearts
because we are so blessed and privileged to be
loved by God in so infinite and abundant ways.
Do you agree with me?
see some faces amongst you that does not seem
to be very convinced. You seem to be saying to
me, “I can’t find the joy and peace
that I ought to feel because my heart is burdened
with so many concerns and pain.
My sisters and brothers, if you say you have problems, other people have bigger
problems. Think of the 30 million or more people who are on the brink of starvation,
the millions who have no clean water; the millions whose lives are lived in
constant fear of being killed by militia or murderers. Do we not feel so blessed
to have more than what we possibly can eat or drink, and to be able to live
in peace and sleep soundly every night? Should we not be grateful to God? Are
you feeling better now? Yes? No?!
you are feeling better now, then this is not
yet the “living faith” that we are
referring to in this homily. And there is a fundamental
flaw in our Christian thinking because we cannot
expect to have a living faith that lives off
the knowledge of the misery and suffering of
people. A living faith has to be positive and
have a living faith that is positive and life
giving our faith in Christ needs to be firm,
strong and decisive. This is a faith that is
prepared to put Jesus first in all things. A
faith that dares to follow the teachings of Jesus,
and dares to “let the dead bury the dead.” Indeed,
as strong and decisive faith that deeply desires
and even dreams of not only merely making a difference
in people’s lives but, even conquering
the world for God’s greater glory!
sisters and brothers in Christ, at this juncture,
you may think that I am spewing words that are
religiously romantic and realistically unreachable.
If you feel this way, then let us remind ourselves
that there was a man who had such dreams of conquering
the world for Christ some 500 years ago. He is
none other than St Ignatius of Loyola.
St Ignatius began by dreaming of conquering the world for his earthly king
and also marrying a beautiful princess of a royal family of his dreams.
However, when God touched his heart and transformed his passion for the
vanities of the world into a passion to conquer the world for Christ, he
set out with great determination precisely to achieve that for God’s
all great dreams, St Ignatius began in a small
way. He recruited a few men while he was studying
in Paris . He gave them the Spiritual Exercises;
what today we would call a directed retreat in
daily life. Through this he led them to open
their hearts to serve God with a passion that
of one man called St Ignatius of Loyola who dared
to open his heart to God’s dreams and was
able to develop a living faith, today, there
are more than 20,000 Jesuits in 106 countries
and 6 continents in the world. With God’s
graces and blessings, the living faith, Jesuits
travelled as missionaries to every corner of
the globe: founded haciendas in Mexico , explored
the Mississippi and Amazon rivers and served
Chinese Emperors as map workers, painters and
astronomers. In the book of Jesuits saints and
martyrs we find more than 345 saints, blessed,
venerable and servants of God of the Society
of Jesus. The Jesuits also lay claim to 35 craters
on the moon named by Jesuit scientists. Historians
say that Jesuits have been despised or idolized
on a scale unknown to members of other religious
orders. Jesuits have died the most horrible death
and done the most outlandish deeds. They were
loved or loathed. The Jesuits’ dramatic
and wide-ranging impact could never be ignored.
By the mid-18 th century, they had established
more than 650 educational institutions; their
power was seen as so threatening that hostility
escalated into serious political feuds and at
various times they were either banned or harshly
suppressed throughout Europe . All these and
much more happened because one man believed that
God will work through him and he also dared to
make God’s dream for him a reality.
is another man whom we call Jesus Christ who
dared to be selfless enough to fulfil His Father’s
dreams of saving the whole world. And because
of Him there are more than one billion Catholic
Christians in the world today.
is now challenging us and saying to each of us
. . . “Because of you, I want the world
to be a significantly different place to live
in. Will you help me make this significant difference
in people’s lives for my sake?”
heard all that I have said, are your hearts fired
by the zeal to live your faith more fully?! Yes?!
No?! Not sure?! If we are still hesitant because
we are not good enough then, we should remember
that St Ignatius also began very much as a man
who was caught up by the vanities of the world.
And when he was eventually touched by God he
started from a small group. In fact, St Ignatius
was very much like us . . . perhaps even more
worldly than us.
secret of St Ignatius was that with God’s
graces he was very focused, very decisive and
very determined in what he did for God. Ah ha.
. . there lies the great difference between St
Ignatius and us, we might say. Yes, we can easily
admit that, unlike St Ignatius, we are often
unfocused, indecisive and weak in carrying through
what we want to do for God.
you know why we find it so difficult to develop
a solid and strong living faith? I believe, like
other first world countries, we are the product
of affluence. Don’t get me wrong. The Church
is not against material wealth and riches. In
themselves, wealth and riches are good. However,
what I am referring to is quite different.
believe we are suffering from living a life that
is unreflected. To live an unreflected life is
to live a life that is absorbed by the currents
of secular society that numbs us into thinking
that our goal in life is to make our first million
dollars. And, our second goal in life is to make
our next ten million dollars, and from this we
will gain all the happiness that will go with
let us remind ourselves that to own the $10 million
dollars is in itself not wrong or bad. But, what
is against a strong living faith is to make the
$10 million our ultimate goal in life. If what
I am saying here is something that we are very
conscious about, then such temptations of the
world will not be such a threat to our living
faith. But, if such secular temptations are not
something that we are conscious about, then they
can become very real and dangerous threats to
our living faith. This is because not to be aware
of such secular and materialistic temptations
is to risk living a life that unconsciously treats
God as irrelevant and unimportant to our lives.
such a faith, we can easily drift into becoming “Sunday
Catholics.” Or worse still, as the joke
goes, “Italian Catholics.” That is
to say, Catholics who go to Church twice during
their life-time, and during both times, they
are carried into the Church; first during Baptism
and then during their funeral.
to live an unreflected life is to live a wasted
life; a worldly life that is focused on our self
gains instead of living it to make a significant
difference to other people’s lives. Secular
spirituality of the world is a skin deep spirituality
that will not last and certainly will never bring
any deep fulfilment to anyone’s lives.
I draw this homily to a conclusion, let me sum
up by saying. There is no doubt for all of us
that Our Lord wants each of us to have a living
faith that makes a difference to people’s
lives; not only some difference, but a significant
difference to peoples lives. And the type of
living we all need is a living faith that is
more than obeying laws and fulfilling obligations
of the Church. A living faith that is also more
than doing good and being a morally upright person.
is challenging each of us to have a living faith
that is like that of St Ignatius of Loyola. A
faith that is very focused, very decisive and
very determined to live solely for God. Indeed,
a living faith that dares to dream of conquering
the world for Christ. And to have such a living
faith, we need to have the wisdom to find time
to live a reflected life; a reflected life that
is able to tap into God’s power that is
latent within each of our hearts.
are all good people with a desire to want to
live our lives in God’s ways and for God.
We need to unleash this divine power in small
ways and in the small choices that we make daily
so that we will eventually be able to make significant
differences to peoples’ lives. To capture
St Ignatius’ sense of what a living faith
is let us now ponder on this prayer of St Ignatius
called the “Prayer
teach me to be generous,
Teach me to serve You as You deserve,
To give and not count the cost
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labour and not to seek for reward
Save that of knowing I do Your most Holy Will.
we are able to take these words of St Ignatius
to heart and pray it daily and then try to live
it, I am sure we will be able to develop, with
God’s graces, a living faith that will
make a significant difference to people’s
Philip Heng, S.J.