Aug 10, 2013

19th Sunday - By Faith we live

Ws 18: 6-9
Hb 11: 1-2, 8-19
Lk 12: 32 – 48

Unlike our own modern times, particularly in this country, the ancient people of the Middle East were far more concerned about the past and the present than they were about the future.  Our sense of time is very future oriented.  We plan for our future retirement, we encourage our grade school and high school students to begin thinking about college and careers, and we long for the next I-phone, I-pad, or the next “generation” of computers rather than enjoy the one we have, not to mention the next model of car to be produced.  

While some of this does have value, I think we can tend to easily forget or minimize the importance of the present moment and any sense of serious reflection on the experiences of the past.  Our prevailing culture moves from one thing to the next with little memory of the past.  “Ok, that’s done, now on to the next thing.”  It’s no wonder we are never satisfied, always wanting an upgrade or a more refined model.  

However, the people of Jesus’ time had a very different concept of the importance of time.  Far too many of them were concerned about where the next meal would come from than to give any serious concern about next month or next year.  It was a day to day existence, living for the moment. The leaders of the Jews tended to be more focused on things of the past.  How each of us measures up to the lessons of our ancestors. 

Our readings this Sunday begin with a well-known proverb: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11: 1) An important element of faith is the hope and trust it generates.  We live each day, for example, in a disposition of trust in God that whatever curve ball life may throw at us, all will ultimately be well.  So, we hope in the God who called us in to life. But, how confident can we be that “all will be well?” We want both a secure present with little angst about the future so we plan accordingly to avoid preventable problems.   

Using the word “evidence” in the proverb above may sound to a very scientific and technical age as somewhat squishy!  In other words, evidence is something tangible, measureable, concrete, and that which is perceived by our sense of smell, taste, sight, or touch. “Faith” is not that way necessarily.  It is not scientific or measureable or tangible but rather based in experience and one’s own conviction. In one sense, faith comes before proof and as the saying goes, “for those who believe, no proof is necessary.” 

Christian history has shown us time and again, that we believe because others before us have believed - and others before them, and others before them.  The very deposit of “faith” is passed down from generation to generation and every new generation needs to hear once again the good news.  In that sense, it is both ancient and ever new. So, while it isn’t science or technology that will prove the life of the spirit, it is faith that has the power to convict us.  Religion answers the deeper questions of life about meaning and purpose that science cannot. So, faith is indeed powerful for those who seek it.

The second reading from Hebrews, then, is proof to us of what others believed and why we ourselves should be, in the words of the Gospel ready to: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” (Lk 12: 35). We wait for God each day in faith – or at least that is the goal of our life; to live in trust of God’s promise. While concern about the future is not necessarily a bad thing, we only live in the present moment and God speaks to us in the here and the now.

Others believed before us, as Hebrews reminds us, which uses this Sunday the example of Abraham, who we refer to as “our Father in faith.  Abraham obeyed . . .  By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country . . . By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age . . . “(Hb 11: 8-12). 

The point is that the inspiration and example of Abraham is meant to be for all of us a call to deeper faith based in trust of God in the daily present moments of our life. 

In our weekly celebration of the Eucharist, we hear an ancient word and remember an ancient meal celebrated by Jesus with his Apostles.  But the Eucharist is not like watching a news report of something already past or recounting a past historical event reported in a book.  It is an invitation to encounter the risen Christ in the present moment where we live.  Like all relationships, this one is meant to give meaning to our present lives that the future may also be secure by hope and trust in God’s daily care.

Not easy, to be sure, but think about the times you have had to rely on faith without tangible proof.  Were you disappointed?  Were you made stronger and able to say, “God got me through this!  I could never have done it without my faith.” 

 Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing scare you.
All is fleeting. God alone is unchanging.
Patience, everything obtains.
Who possesses God, wants for nothing.
God alone suffices.

(St. Teresa of Avila Bookmark)