Forty years ago good fortune brought me a friendship which endures to this day despite the separations of time and distance.
Both of us by now aged at four score years and more as poets might say. Fortune brought us together; friendship and Canada Post have kept us that way ever since.
Our correspondence often has a rather weighty quality that provides me an education of value - so much did he teach me. We chased matters of intense mutual interest until our ignorance and other limitations drained our curiosity.
One such series lead us into an examination of the meaning of the word "faith," a topic which by happy chance for present purposes, Sister Louise Zdunich discussed with such good sense in a recent edition of these pages. As for our pursuit - it ran aground when we tried to define the relationship between faith and belief.
As I remember it, we wanted to continue with that line of enquiry but our short attention span let us wander into an examination of the relative merits of the German Messerschmidt fighter aircraft and the British Spitfire, a subject on which his knowledge derived from intimate and terrifying first hand experience.
An observer might think, "Not too focused, these two fellows - perhaps at their age, addled."
Just as we left the topic of the meaning of faith, my friend made a last comment, the germ of which I espy in the reflection by Sister Louise. Late on in her article, she notes, "In the New Testament, faith is faith in Jesus and in his ongoing mission on earth."
St. Paul puts that very idea into vivid terms as he recounts the nature of his committed self to Jesus in today's reading from Galatians.
He confesses his identification with the suffering and teachings of Jesus and offers his new found self as one needing no other proof, "From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body."
Moved by Paul's declaration, I now find use for the correspondence with my sagacious friend. His thinking led him to discoveries in his faith by contemplating the subtleties of the expressions "faith in Jesus" and the "faith of Jesus."
What does the preposition "of" add to the nature of our faith? Intimacy? An effort to enter the very mind of Jesus? To follow him as "faith in Jesus" invites and by extension of the metaphor, to walk beside him, striving to emulate his very self as "faith of Jesus" seems to invite?
I think it honest to admit that I can't fully imagine the richness that might lie in exploring the contrast between "faith in Jesus" and "faith of Jesus" but I shall look again into The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, a provocative title in this context.
(Ralph Himsl: firstname.lastname@example.org)