Personal Faith
24th Sunday Ordinary Time B

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

There are two kinds of faith; there is faith by convention and there is faith by conviction. Faith by convention is a matter of cultural background. One is born and raised in a particular religious tradition, breathing the air of faith, as it were. Just as a person is raised as Filipino, Chinese, or American so too does a person grow as a Catholic, a Protestant, a Buddhist, or a Muslim.

Action starter: Are you a feel-good Christian or a real disciple?

On the other hand, there is faith by conviction. A person realizes the personal consequences of the faith he is born into. In some instances, a person embraces another religious tradition as a matter of personal conviction. In religious language, we refer to this as conversion. A person may undergo a personal conversion within his own religious tradition or he may undergo conversion by shifting into another religious denomination.

Our readings this Sunday speak of the personal dimension of our faith. In this time and place, we are challenged to answer personally the question that Jesus asked his disciples, “But who do you say that I am? (Mk. 8:27-35)” It is not enough to repeat what others say about the Lord Jesus- what our catechism teacher said, or what we learned in the classroom, or what we heard the priest preached. Who really is Jesus for me? This is the question that each maturing believer eventually has to answer for himself.

Answering this question for ourselves eventually leads us to another question. What are the personal consequences of my faith in Jesus? The readings this Sunday give us some directions on the personal consequences of our faith. St, James asks, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters if someone says he has faith but does not have works? (Jas 2:14)” And he throws a challenge, “Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” In the Gospel, the Lord Jesus throws another challenge, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

The cross is a consequence of our discipleship. How indeed can we claim that we are following in the footsteps of the Lord when we do not want to go as far as Calvary. We want to be with him in Cana but not in Gethsemane. How can one eat and drink with the Lord, yet not share the cup of His suffering? Jesus showed at the Last Supper that partaking of the Eucharist also leads to washing one another’s feet.

A cross-less Christianity is a feel-good Christianity. It is a Christianity of convenience. It is a domesticated Christianity devoid of the radical consequences of discipleship.

We can take inspiration from witnesses to these extreme forms of Christian discipleship. There was this priest who had been in and out of prisons because of positions he had taken in defense of human rights. There was this mother who refuse to abort her baby in order to save her own life. There was this high government official who died a poor man even if he was in a position to enrich himself. There was this soldier who refused the order to shoot children and women in the war zone.

The list would be endless. In our Catholic tradition we have a name for these men and women who live the radical consequences of their personal faith. They realize the meaning of the cross in Christian discipleship. We call them saints.