Sunday Sermon for August 7, 2016, the Nineteenth Sunday in 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 ancient Jews knew the night of the Passover beforehand so that they would have courage through the sure oaths that had been made to them.  It seems to us to be unfair that they had knowledge of the time when the Exodus was to occur and we do not.  In fact, in the Gospel today Jesus tells us that the Master will return at an hour we do not expect.

Before we look at our Lord’s point we have to consider the situation for the Hebrew people in Egypt.  During their 400 years in Egypt they had all but forgotten the Lord.  They worshiped the Egyptian gods and lived like Egyptians.  They did not have faith in the Lord because they had forgotten about Him and there was no one to remind them of Him.

When God appeared to Moses and sent him to the people, their natural inclination was to scoff at him.  As the people saw the plagues they became more aware of God’s presence and power, but as the oppression became worse, they still did not have much faith in the Lord who had spoken to them through Moses.  Therefore, when the night of the Passover arrived, it required a huge act of faith on their part.

The had to follow a whole series of instructions meaning that they not only had to make an act of faith in God, but they also had to act on that faith.  It is one thing to eat the Passover lamb in your own house while being dressed up for a journey because it was pretty private and no one would know.  But to put the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels was a very public act that would have severe repercussions if the events did not happen as God promised them through Moses.

They were given some specifics because God was trying to get them to the point of faith, but once they could make that act of faith, they still had to put it into practice.  Now it is our turn.  We made our act of faith when we were baptized; we have made similar acts of faith throughout our lives.  Because God does not have to prove His existence to us, neither does He have to give us any specifics.  He has made promises and we, in faith, have to believe that, as St. Paul says, that the One Who made the promises is trustworthy.

It is interesting to see St. Paul’s logic when speaking of the Patriarchs who had to make a series of acts of faith.  Unlike the Jews in Egypt, St. Paul reminds us that the Patriarchs all died in faith without seeing the promises fulfilled.  It is because of this faith that St. Paul says that God is not ashamed to be called their God.

What about us?  Have we put our faith into practice in such a manner that God would not be ashamed to be known as our God?  Perhaps for many of us it has to be asked the other way first.  Do we have true faith in God and in His promises or are we ashamed to call Him our God?  This latter way of operating has become vogue in our day.  Many give lip service to God, but they do not serve Him.  Worse than that, they try to justify their failure to put faith into practice with a whole variety of cheap excuses.

People say: “I believe, but…”  They tell others that they are Catholic but they do not believe in what the Church teaches on this or that issue.  They tell people that it does not matter what they do because God loves them anyway.  We have even come to the point of suggesting that no one goes to hell.  If everyone goes to Heaven, then it does not matter what you do in this life.

This is really sad, especially when our Lord Himself tells us about the rough and narrow way that leads to life and the smooth and wide way that leads to perdition.  He speaks on several occasions about those thrown into the darkness where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.  In today’s Gospel He tells us about unfaithful servants who knew their Master’s will and did not carry it out.  These are contrasted with those who did wrong, but did not know it was a violation of the Master’s will.  The latter will get off pretty easy while the former receive a severe beating.

Live the faith you profess; God Who has made the promises is trustworthy.  Do not be ashamed of your testimony to the Lord and He will not be ashamed to be called your God.

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