Aug. 10, 2019

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2019

ABRAHAM’S MODULE: THE RISK OF FAITH

Readings: 1st- Wis. 18:6-9; 2nd- Heb. 11:1-2, 8-19; Gospel- Lk. 12:32-48

Our faith journey begins at baptism when we become immersed in the life of Christ, what I see as eternity-driven risk. We rely on only on the Supernatural power. We depart on this journey before asking about the correctness of our maps. We travel with no GPS, yet knowing that we’ll get to the destination. The readings of today recount the story of the Old Testament forebears. 

The first reading talks about that night of the Passover. The Israelites enter into covenant with God and recognize with sure knowledge, that the oaths they have taken produces in them courage to adhere to God’s commandments. They believe in God’s promise, God fights on their behalf, eliminates their foes and stands firmly with them. They in turn offer sacrifice to God as a sign of the covenant. 

Abraham is presented as a big product of the covenant. He represents faith that is both courageous and generous. In the Letter to the Hebrews, faith is given several definitions. It is the realization of the things hoped for. That means, the person who has faith lives in hope beyond the immediate. That expectation is that God who is the reason for believing will fulfill what is hoped for, that which is unseen. Hence, the risk of faith. Hebrews presents faith as “evidence of things not seen,” (Heb. 11:1) things hidden in God, revealed  only in Christ Jesus.

Abraham accepts God’s will through courageous and generous openness. His actions are guided by faith- he leaves his place to an unknown destination; dwells in foreign land for years; receives the promise to be father of multitude of nations, accepts the promise to be a father at a humanly impossible child-bearing age with his wife Sarah; then offers to sacrifice his only son Isaac in response to God’s request. He stands as a model, believing absolutely in “things not seen.”  

In Abraham, faith takes the meaning of trust, assurance, confidence, faithfulness, expectation, heroic courage, and above all, relationship. Abraham enters into a relationship with God all through his life, an invitation which we receive at baptism. Saint Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).I

Does faith take us through a difficult journey? The answer is yes. Faith is tough and challenging. It involves risk. Faith puts our patience to the test, stretches us in ways near breakage. At a recent funeral of an only son of a woman who had earlier lost her only daughter, this mother said to me, “Father, why does this happen? I have only two children. I buried my only daughter two years ago, now I’m burying my son. Why wouldn’t God let my children bury me?” At another funeral, having committed her mother to the earth, the young daughter approached me and said, “Are you sure I will see my mom in heaven the same way she was on earth, same body, same beauty? Just yesterday, I called my sister who lost her 21 years old son in May. The reason why I called was because my siblings whispered to me that she’s been crying for the past week. We started talking then she said to me, “But why would God give me this kind of temptation? It is becoming more real to me now that I have lost Ihiechi. Father, it is getting tougher for me.” Yes, faith can get tough. But those are questions which I have not exact answers to. None of us has answers to all the things that happen to us. We can only believe.  

Abraham serves as an example. Hus module reminds us that we are dealing with God. The Hebrew writer says, “Now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.” And the reward is, “Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” That’s access to faith which we have following the module of Abraham. The reward of faith from Abraham extends to us through baptism. Saint Paul writes, “The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone,  but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom. 4:22-23). 

In today’s gospel, Christ demands that we be vigilant. He says, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Lk. 12:48). Faith entrusts much to us by baptism. It makes us disciples of Jesus. It invites us to vigilance and heroic courage. Thus Christ says, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” ((Lk. 12:32). That kingdom is what Abraham and his descendants looked forward to. To possess that kingdom, we must be vigilant in faith. 

The Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Lawrence the Martyr on August 10th. Saint Lawrence was a deacon in the 3rd centurywho gave generously to the point of sacrificing his life. To those who burnt him in fire he uttered these words, “I’m done on this side, turn me over.” In Lawrence, faith teaches us to invest in the heavenly riches echoing Christ’s statement in today’s gospel, “Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy”  (Lk. 12:32). Abraham set the precedence by attempting to give his only son. Saint Lawrence followed suit by sacrificing his life in martyrdom. Christ reminds us, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Lk. 12:33). 

My friends, where is your treasure stored at? Are you living like the young man who said to Christ in last Sunday’s reading, “Tell my brother to share the inheritance with me?” Or like the foolish rich man who put his faith in his possession, who stored treasures only for himself? Where is your treasure? Does temptation, failure, lack of material success make you to lose your faith? Think about this, “What will you miss most when you’re dying?” Christ says today, “If that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.” All you bosses, take note. All you, employers, take note. All you, rich men, take note. Don’t let the Master assign you a place with the unfaithful.  

Follow Abraham’s module- put your trust, assurance, confidence, faithfulness in God. Faith may test you, but let it lead you to heaven. That’s the best way to stay vigilant.