A Faith Lived
Thoughts on the Second Readings by Joe Frankenfield
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27

Ted Kennedy’s death this week reminds us of the good one person can accomplish. Granted the extraordinary opportunities that his family background and high political office afforded him, his extraordinary energy and willingness to put himself out for others’ welfare were both effective and obvious.

What was little noted during Kennedy’s lifetime was the importance of his faith. Interviews with those who worked with and knew him well revealed that he frequently went to Mass during the week and prayed daily. In a recent discussion of Kennedy’s life Tom Oliphant, a newspaper columnist and friend, recounted how he had once asked Kennedy where his determination to work for the poor and disenfranchised came from. Kennedy responded, “Haven’t you ever read the gospels?”

I’m not touting Ted Kennedy as the perfect man. I’m not asserting that his solutions to our social problems were the only valid or even the best ones. I’m saying that his life illustrates the strength that faith offers: the strength to keep pursuing the promise of human life in the face of whatever difficulties, dangers and failures the work entails. All who knew him agree that Kennedy strove to do that and that he stood on the foundation of his faith as he stretched toward justice.

Blaise Pascal, a French philosopher, said that we should believe in God because if he doesn’t exist, we’ve lost nothing but if he does, we stand to gain immensely. Many accept his reasoning. It’s clever but it utterly misses the point of faith.

To live is an astoundingly good thing. It is also difficult: full of hardship, struggle and failure. To keep going, to hold on to the dream of human fulfillment – not just for oneself but for everyone – demands great energy and courage. Faith, whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu or any other, is the foundation of such courage. It’s a gift from the Creator. It can’t be explained. It needn’t be justified. We possess it for our sake and the world’s.

None of us will ever receive a greater acknowledgment than to have those who’ve known us say that, in spite of all our weaknesses and failures and plain human dopiness, we loved life and gave ourselves to make it better. That’s being true to faith.