Sunday Sermon for August 11, 2013, the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Wis 18:6-9; Heb 11:1-2, 8-19; Lk 12:32-48
In the first reading today we are told that the night of the Passover was known to the people beforehand so that they would be able to have faith in the oaths that God had made and that they would have courage. When we consider the context of this, we recall that they had already witnessed the first nine plagues that had been visited upon the Egyptians and they had been told what the tenth plague would be. They, however, had to sacrifice the lambs and put the blood on the door posts and lintels of their homes in order to escape the tragedy of losing their firstborn.
The people obeyed what Moses commanded them to do. It might have sounded foolish to some of them, but they were rewarded for their faith if they followed through with something that might not have seemed logical to them. God was not asking for agreement regarding the conclusion of a syllogism, He was asking for an act of faith. It is interesting that the author of Wisdom says that it was to give them courage. At first glance we can see that the courage was present, but we know what happened when they were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army. Even so, they also had to have faith and courage to walk through the sea with the water forming a wall on either side.
When we look at the second reading we see that the faith God required of Abraham was not always as easy to accept. Abraham, however, believed and went forward, not knowing where he was even going. We are told, though, that Abraham and some of the other ancient Saints had been given promises by God which they saw and saluted from afar. So their act of faith was not unreasonable, but it was about something they could not fully understand.
Our Lord, too, asks faith of us in something that we cannot fully grasp at the present time. We can look at this from a couple of perspectives. First of all, like the people at the time of the Exodus, our Lord had announced His Passion and death to His Apostles. They initially showed little faith or courage. However, when they saw that the Lord’s words had come to pass, they were able to muster immense amounts of both faith and courage. They were willing to go out to preach and even to die for what they had accepted and saluted from afar.
The second way to consider this is that there was no time or date given to the Apostles regarding our Lord’s return or their entrance into Heaven. Like Abraham, they had to go forward, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them, even though they did not know where they might be going, how long they would be there, or what would happen to them. They had to act on a more blind faith, knowing the promises of our Lord, but having no concrete framework for their fulfillment.
We can also look at things from our perspective. We are being asked to accept on faith everything about the life and death of our Lord given to us through the writings of the Apostles. More than that, we are asked, based on that same faith in what happened 2000 years ago, to have faith in the promises our Lord has made regarding the future and even His presence among us now. With no time frame presented, we are asked always to be ready for our Lord’s return. In this way, like the Patriarchs, we have to live and die in faith without receiving what has been promised.
What we are being asked to do is not at all unreasonable, but it is something we cannot fully understand, and of which we have little or no personal experience. To be asked to store up treasure in Heaven requires a huge act of faith on our part. We do have the example of the Saints who have made and lived this act of faith before us. We can see from their lives that God is faithful and that He will fulfill everything He has promised. But we also see that the Lord asks us to go forward without concrete information as to where we are going, how we will get there or what will happen to us.
This is precisely the act of faith God wants from us. He wants us to have faith and trust in Him and in Him alone. He wants us to live this faith in our day to day lives. In fact, He wants this faith to inform everything we do in our daily lives. This faith will give us courage and the reward for acting on this faith will be immense.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.