credite evangelio

The Season after the Epiphany is all about how Jesus is revealed to the world.  After all, that’s what the word Epiphany means: a manifestation of a divine being or a moment of sudden realization.  In Sunday’s Gospel lesson, we hear how Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John suddenly came to follow the Jesus, the Son of God, having realized something amazing in him from only a few words.  The Old Testament lesson, though not about Jesus, is about a whole city coming to realize the error of their ways.  Those are both powerful stories that will make for good sermons, and I’ll deal with them as the week goes on, but today I was struck by the Psalm and the lesson from 1 Corinthians.  Both seem to be about what happens after an Epiphany, that is, the hard work of ongoing faith.

The title of this post is “credite evangelio” which is the Vulgate (Latin) translation of the end of Jesus’ proclamation in Mark 1:15.  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  Credite evangelio, believe the good news.  That’s the second step.  First we realize that Jesus is who he says he is, and then we get about the work of believing.  The problem is, we’ve all but ruined that word over that past 400 years or so.  These days, belief is often equated with intellectual assent.  To say, “I believe in God” means that I’ve done the math, and despite a few doubts in my work, I’m reasonably empirically convinced that God exists.  That’s not what it mean when Jesus said it.

Credo, the Latin word with gets translated as “believe” wasn’t about intellectual assent, but rather, it was about trusting in another person.  Diana Butler Bass, in her book Christianity After Religion puts it this way:

“To believe” in Latin (the shaping language for much of Western theological thought) is opinor, opinari, meaning “opinion,” which was not typically a religious word. Instead, Latin used credo, “I set my heart upon” or “I give my loyalty to,” as the word to describe religious “believing,” that is, “faith.” In medieval English, the concept of credo was translated as “believe,” meaning roughly the same thing as its German cousin belieben, “to prize, treasure, or hold dear,” which comes from the root word Liebe, “love.” Thus, in early English, to “believe” was to “belove” something or someone as an act or trust or loyalty. Belief was not an intellectual opinion. (p. 117)

As we realize what God has done for us in Jesus of Nazareth, we are then compelled to hold dear that gift.  In this sense, when we say, “I believe in God” it means more like “I give my heart over to God, and trust his will for my life.”  Or, more to the words of Jesus this Sunday, when I believe the good news (credite evangelio), I treasure the news that the Kingdom of God has come in the person of Jesus Christ and take my place in its upkeep.

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