Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, bishop and doctor of the Church
(Isaiah 7:1-9; Matthew 11:20-24)
The singer and songwriter John Denver sang a beautiful ballad about his uncle Matthew. The refrain emphasized that Matthew was raised on joy and found love the only way to live. The verses told how Matthew lost everything in a tornado – farm, home, and family – everything, that is, except his faith. The ballad asserted that Matthew’s faith in God was “as solid as a stone.” It is the kind of faith that Isaiah exhorts in today’s first reading.
The situation appears hopeless for the small kingdom of Judah. Its neighbors have coalesced their forces against it. Its people are trembling. In the midst of the crisis Isaiah admonishes the nation not to lose heart but to keep their faith in God. In what has become a definition of biblical faith, Isaiah tells the people: “’Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm.’” He means to say that their faith comprises their very existence.
Unfortunately some of us count faith as something less than that. We sometimes see faith as an expendable quality of our lives, helpful mostly for celebrating life’s thresholds: the passages from childhood to adolescence, from living mostly for oneself to sharing one’s means with another, from life itself to death. But we do not accept its ultimate meaning. If this is the case with us personally, then we need to repent and accept faith for the claim that Isaiah makes of it. Without our faith in Christ we will cease to be.