FIDDLER ON THE ROOF was one of the first musicals I can ever remember attending. And, the song, “Do you love me?” is part of the musical that remains part of my remembrance. It was a dialogue between Tevye and his wife Goldie as Tevye has given permission to his daughter to get married. Here are the lyrics:
Tevye: Goldie, I have decided to give Perchik permission to become engaged to our daughter, Hodel.
Goldie: What??? He’s poor! He has nothing, absolutely nothing!!”
Tevye: He’s a good man, Goldie. I like him. And what’s more important, Hodel likes him. Hodel loves him. So, what can we do? It’s a new world …. a new world. Love. Goldie ….Do you love me?
Goldie: Do I what?
Tevye: Do you love me?
Goldie: Do I love you? With our daughters getting married and this trouble in the town, you’re upset, you’re worn out. Go inside, lie down! Maybe its indigestion!
Tevye: Goldie, I am asking you a question…. Do you love me?
Goldie: You are a fool.
Tevye: I know… But, do you love me?
Goldie: Do I love you? For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow, …. after twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?
Tevye: Goldie. The first time I met you was on our wedding day. I was scared.
Goldie: I was shy.
Tevye: I was nervous.
Goldie: So was I.
Tevye: But my father and my mother said we’d learn to love each other. And now, I’m asking you, Goldie. Do you love me?
Goldie: I am your wife.
Tevye: I know …. But, do you love me?
Goldie: Do I love him? For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him, fought him, starved with him, twenty-five years my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?
Tevye: Then you love me?
Goldie: I suppose I do.
Tevye: And, I suppose I love you too.
BOTH: It doesn’t change a thing. But even so, after twenty-five years, it’s nice to know. ++++++++++++++
After all these years, it is nice to know. We all appreciate acts of kindness and visible, tangible signs of love. A phone call from someone “just checking on us”, someone volunteering to run an errand for us, a spouse helping us when we are ill or recovering from surgery. The acts of love, the signs of love are important. AND, it is also nice to hear, good to feel, when someone says out loud, “I love you.” Both are important.
And, so it is with our God. It is good to profess our faith through worship and prayer. It is good to profess our faith through support of the Church. And, at the same time, our faith must also be lived out in good-works of love.
Strong [true] faith will produce good fruit.
Are we justified by faith or by works? This question has been a subject of discussion, debate, and argument since the time of Jesus. Some say that the statement from the Epistle of James [2:14-18] was intended to counter the teachings of St. Paul in Romans. Perhaps. But, just maybe James is offering a thought: it is not either/or … rather, it is both/and.
Clearly, we cannot do anything to earn our way into heaven. There is not enough time to do “good works” to open the gates of heaven. Jesus opened the gates of heaven by his death on the cross …. he made us “right” by his act of righteousness. It is through our faith in Jesus that we have a chance for salvation. AND, TRUE FAITH, a living faith, will be shown in the actions/deeds of our lives.
“….if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can that faith save him? if a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also with faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed, someone might say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.”
And Jesus asks — do you really believe in me? It’s nice to hear that you go to church each week, that you get your children to religious education, and that you support the church well. But, to really believe in me, how is it shown?
When Jesus asks, “who do you say I am?”, we do not say/answer the question with mere words …. we answer the question with acts of charity as much [or more] than through a profession of faith or recitation of the creed. Our words must be visibile in our deeds.
AND HE IS CLEAR: to really show our faith, we will have to sacrifice and at times even “suffer”. We may have to give up [lose] our life or part of our life to really show it.
We are all upset and horrified by the killing of the American Ambassador to Libya and 3 other Americans. People who were trying to do good …. who had gone to Libya to help a people rebuild their nation, ended up by losing their lives. They did not just offer to serve, they served. Their commitment to our nation and to freedom went far beyond a “pledge of allegiance” or the singing of the national anthem. They did not just show up — they gave up. This is a most extreme example of answering the question: are you committed?
This is not just a message from the “social gospel” — it is the message of the Gospel. Jesus did not just tell us he loved us — he died on the cross to show us how much he loved us. Jesus did not tell the people he hoped they would find some food, he gave them food. Jesus did not tell us that he would be with us …. he is with us …. and we all know that at some time in life, we have needed him and we have felt his comfort…..or we would not keep coming here.
And so …. after all these years …. like Teyve and Goldie …. we say, “it is nice to know.” It is nice to know that love is professed and shown. Love is welcomed and love is given. We somehow know …. love is real.
When we promise someone we will go to a movie with them or take them to a game — and then we realize it is the opening day of hunting season — we surrender to keep our promise.
When a friend or family member is seriously ill …. we do not always want to go … we do not know what to say; we feel helpless. We do not want to think of them dying or most of all … our own death …. but we go anyway.
We choose one or two — or maybe 3 charities …. and we support them faithfully … to feed, clothe, educate, medicate, house — those in need. These are the works that reflect our faith to the world. Our real self is REVEALED by what we do. If Jesus is Lord of our lives, he must be Lord 24/7, 365 days a year.
We ask: what are the concrete ways in which my Church parish/community LIVES our faith outside the church walls? When worship ends ….where does our faith lead us?
During World War II, Winston Churchill stood with his countrymen. He offered and was willing to give his blood, toil, sweat, and tears. He led by word and deed.
“Faith and charity are the beginning and end of life: the beginning is faith and the end is charity. The two together are God, and everything else that leads to human perfection is only a consequence of faith and charity.” [Ignatius of Antioch d. 110]