An eight-year-old returned home from playing baseball. From the look on his face, it was clear that it had not been a good afternoon. His dad asked what was wrong.
"I was traded today," he said sadly. "Well, that's not so bad," his dad said, as upbeat as he could manage. "The pro players get traded all the time."
"I know," his dejected son said. "But I got traded for a glove!"
We live in a world today where people are seen through the prism of metrics and statistics and market shares; whose only value is in their production or buying power or abilities. We Christians can be caught up in this too and be quick to label people in broad terms based on their nationality, race, culture, gender, ability or religion.
But today's readings challenge us to look beyond such labels and values and traits, to see individual human beings, men and women and children made in the image of God and to remember that our faith doesn’t lie with numbers or categories but with our God, who created the whole world & everything & everyone in it.
"The LORD indeed is God; the LORD indeed is God."
These words were spoken by the crowd in our first reading after they witnessed an extraordinary sight and their hearts turned back to God. Elijah challenged the people to follow the Lord their God, the God of their Ancestors and not Ba’al. But they stood silent, only after they witnessed the fire consuming sacrifice, did they return to their belief in God.
Like those Israelites, we must decide who we give our faith too. And there a lot of Ba’als out there, seeking our allegiance, our faith. These imposters of God will readily take our sacrifice and our commitment, they seemingly give us what we want, but in the end, we know it’s not right and we remained unfulfilled by what we receive from them, and so often these Ba’als see us and others as mere human resources, who can be quickly discarded.
Elijah the Prophet was sent to help the Israelites understand their faith and their journey with God, to make the right decision & live a faithful life. St. Paul was sent to help the first Christians understand their faith and their journey and to continue what they had been taught.
“Am I now seeking human approval, or God's approval?” Paul asked. “Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
St. Paul reminds the Galatians and us, that our faith isn’t about pleasing people & seeking their approval, but following that call, the Spirit of God in our lives, to do good, to bring love and healing to the world. Sometimes we are shown that faith by people we would never even guess would have such faith, people we judge too easily.
In Capernaum, Jesus is asked by a Centurion to heal a slave he valued highly (or was very important to him (that he loved)), and Jesus does just that… On the surface, the healing doesn’t seem so extraordinary, that’s what Jesus does, he heals people… BUT, We should notice from this Gospel story: a Centurion (Gentile) asks a Jew, a Centurion (an occupying soldier) asks one of the occupied for help, he understands his authority and he understands Jesus authority, and in the end, he humbly begs Jesus not to come, because he is not worthy and Jesus word alone will heal the servant. Jesus was amazed by all this, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."
Some who knew the centurion testified to his faith and generosity by how he helped build a synagogue. The centurion is the other in Israel in the time of Jesus, same as the lepers, outside the faith. And Jesus praises his faith, heals his servant, and reminds us that faith comes even from the other in our midst, a hated enemy, a non-believer…
So maybe, from what Jesus did, we should worry less about how that faith is expressed by others & focus instead on meeting one another by reaching forth our hands in love.
In a world, where the Ba’als seek our life & faith & our market share, where people are judged as human resources or not, our challenge is to choose the good, and not worship or fear those gods, but instead live out of that God given faith that is inside you and me, that is set ablaze by God’s spirit, that we may remake our world with the hope & love we have.
May God open our hearts and spirits to see every human being as mirroring the grace of God and afford them the dignity that is all of ours by being created in our triune God’s likeness and image. Our faith compels us to live it in our hands, in our bodies, to honor God’s holy name. So people will know Jesus by what we do: a faith that is made by the Spirit of God and the choices that we each make, that shows forth his love in our lives. Amen.