Mar. 30, 2017

NINETEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR, C.

THE JOURNEY OF FAITH 

I have great news for you. You know what it is, "There is no need to be afraid". Why? Because you have faith in God. These are the words from Christ to each person here present. There is no need to be afraid because it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom. What a good news to share; the Father has willed you his kingdom. That means we have a heavenly treasure. Remember what Saint Paul tells us, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavenly places" (Eph.1:3). This is great news, God has included us in his divine inheritance- the kingdom of eternal comfort, mansion that will last forever, treasure that will not fail. In this kingdom, purses cannot wear out. Moths cannot destroy it. Thieves cannot break in. For that reason, we have to put all our hearts in acquiring that kingdom. And Christ declares today, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Lk.12:34). So, how do we get hold of this kingdom? 

The Letter to the Hebrews gives us the code; "Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, and prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen" (Heb.11:1). This letter refers back to the role of faith in the relationship of God and our ancestors. For their faith they were commended. The first reading recounts that great night of redemption foretold to the Israelites. They believed in the God of the covenant and put all their trust in him. They took courage while still in exile. Faith made our ancestors to be strong and courageous. 

Abraham is the model of the faith in God. He stepped into the dark in obedience to God. Abraham didn't know where he was going but he knew that God wouldn't disappoint him.  Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son to God since he believed that he was going to be father of multitude. God rewarded him immensely. His faith paid off well. Although Sarah was too old to bear a child, she believed in the promises of the Angels. The Hebrews author gives several examples of the faith of the patriarchs: Abel manifested his faith through his offering. Enoch showed his faith by living a life that pleased God, he was taken up into heaven. Noah demonstrated his faith in God by erecting the ark following God's instructions. Isaac showed his faith by imparting his blessing on Jacob for the future. Jacob blessed each of Joseph's sons before his death. Joseph pronounced the Exodus of the Israelites on his death bed. All these looked to the far distance in their relationship with God, and scripture maintains, "It is impossible to please God without faith" (Heb.11:6). 

Faith is a commitment. In the gospel, Christ describes it as constant readiness; "the Son of Man will come at an hour we do not expect". Faith means being dressed for action. It means having our Christian lamps constantly lit. Faith enables the Christian to take risk for the sake of God's kingdom. Faith removes our focus from earthly possessions. When we discuss the issue of faith in the Christian life, often times the tendency is to think that we make reason less valuable to humanity. That is quite wrong. 

In 1998, Pope John Paul 11 published one of his most powerful encyclicals titled, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason). The Holy Father distinguished between the two faculties of human existence this way: "What is distinctive in the biblical text is the conviction that there is a profound and indissoluble unity between the knowledge of reason and the knowledge of faith. The world and all that happens within it, including history and the fate of peoples, are realities to be observed, analyzed and assessed with all the resources of reason, but without faith ever being foreign to the process. Faith intervenes not to abolish reason's autonomy nor to reduce its scope for action, but solely to bring the human being to understand that in these events it is the God of Israel who acts. Thus the world and the events of history cannot be understood in depth without professing faith in the God who is at work in them. Faith sharpens the inner eye, opening the mind to discover in the flux of events the workings of Providence. Here the words of the Book of Proverbs are pertinent: "The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps" (16:9). This is to say that with the light of reason human beings can know which path to take, but they can follow that path to its end, quickly and unhindered, only if with a rightly tuned spirit they search for it within the horizon of faith. Therefore, reason and faith cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of men and women to know themselves, the world and God in an appropriate way" (Fides et Ratio, no.16). Faith transcends human reason, makes it to see life as a movement into the eternal treasure of God's kingdom. 

Today, we remember Abraham, our model in the faith. Abraham was not afraid of his present condition. He believed in the power of God to change his circumstance. He dared his situation. He lived ahead of his time. By faith, he concentrated on the real homeland, the Promised Land for him, was eternity foreseen. Faith made Abraham to concentrate on possibility. This is how we need to approach our Christian life, a journey to our Promised Inheritance. We need to approach with courage and without fear because we rely on God. He is the same God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua; he is the God of possibilities. 

Faith believes in abundance not lack. Faith proclaims healing in sickness. Faith declares surplus in scarcity. Faith paves way at crossroads. Faith multiplies favors. Faith invokes blessings. Faith puts God at the center of challenges- marriage, health, employment, education, finance, children, addiction, suffering, etc. Faith makes our relationship with God active, and scripture says, "The righteous man shall live by faith" (Heb.10:38). 

We need to pray with faith in our individual experiences. There is nothing God cannot do if you believe. It may take time, but that's the faith challenge. Remember the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus. Her faith was tested. At first, Jesus snubbed her. The disciples tried to dismiss her. She was treated like a stranger, but she persisted. She held strongly to her faith and exclaimed, "Yes, Lord, even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters' table" (Matt.15:28). Jesus said to her finally, "Go, let your desire be done to you". It was because she had great faith. You may be going through tough times. You may be battling with sickness. You may be experiencing failures and setbacks. You may be facing constant disappointments. Yes, Abraham faced similar situations, he was without child for years. Yet he believed. Sarah was barren for years. Jacob served Laban for seven years with faith he would get Rachel as his wife. Moses suffered disappointments from his own people. Job lost his possessions and wealth. The prophets suffered different challenges for numerous years. But they believed in the God of the covenant, they were victorious. 

Do not not be too quick to give up on your demands before God. He doesn't change. It might take time but he remains the same God of the covenant. He wants you to keep your eyes on the future, and importantly, on the eternal kingdom that has been prepared for you. That's the good news of today. 

May the Lord keep us in his faith. May we never be scared by the challenges of the present moments in our lives. Amen.