19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 8th 2016.
Wis 18:6-9; Heb 11:1-2,8-19; Lk 12:32-48
The promise that reigns
A priest friend of mine said that in his early teens he had gone to his mother with excitement to inform her that he was sensing a call to become a religious priest. His mother replied with shock, “You? Of all my children!” He was obviously an unlikely priestly candidate among her children and she could not understand how he could be the one called to be a priest. My friend joked that he could not understand it then and he cannot understand it even now after many years as a priest though he has believed this all his life.
There are many things in life that we just cannot understand but we believe and act on them. How is it possible that a weak man can speak the words of Jesus during consecration at Mass and the substance of bread and wine will be changed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ? How can a sinful man speak words of absolution over a fellow sinner and sins are forgiven in the sacrament of Confession? How can a man and woman become one in the sacrament of marriage and become the means of mutual sanctification for each other through married love? These are things that we believe but do not completely understand.
Why then do we believe these things and act on them? We believe these things because God’s words to us always come with a promise, a divine guarantee that we will have what we need to act on His difficult and mysterious words and we will never be disappointed if we do act on His words.
The letter to the Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians who were being tempted to return to Judaism because of the mockery they received from pagans and non-Christian Jews. Their fellow Jews considered them traitors while the pagans laughed at them for their faith in Christ. The Christian converts are probably wondering what Christianity is all about and why they have to be faithful to Christ in the midst of such persecution. The author of this letter reminds them of the fidelity of their ancestor Abraham and his faith in God. God’s words to Abraham were definitely hard to understand and obey. In obedience to God, Abraham went out, “not knowing where he was to go,” leaving his own land, sojourning as a pilgrim and “dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob.” When God put him to a difficult test, Abraham willingly “offered up Isaac.”
Abraham acted faithfully on God’s mysterious and difficult words to Him because “he thought that the one who made the promise was trustworthy,” and he was not disappointed, “So it was that there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.” Abraham acted on these words not because he understood them completely or they were easy or convenient but because of his faith in the trustworthiness of the One who spoke those words to him.
Before Jesus Christ calls His disciples to vigilant service in anticipation of His return, He reminds them of the promise of the Father to give them the kingdom, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” Once they have believed in the Father’s promise to them, they are to be generous and give alms, “Sell your belongings and give alms,” and they are to serve faithfully till the very end, “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.” They will surely not be disappointed if they act on His words because they will share in the blessedness and happiness of their master, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”
In baptism we made a promise to God to reject sin, to live holy lives, and to worship and serve Him in the Church. He also made a solemn promise to us that we will never lack what we need to be faithful to our promises till the end and that we will not be disappointed but will attain eternal life. In that moment of baptism, we received that gift of faith which is the “realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” This precious gift of faith opens us to that hope needed to stand fast in fidelity to God’s words to us.
I wondered a few days ago how much we believe any more in God’s promises to us when I heard that Joe Biden, the vice president of the Unites States and a professed Catholic, officiated at a “same-sex” marriage in an act of public defiance of sacred scripture, tradition and magisterial teaching. It appears the promise that God has made to us of eternal life, a promised sealed and guaranteed in the blood of Jesus, does not make any difference whatsoever in our life choices.
If we are going to embrace God’s mysterious and often demanding words to us today in this age of moral confusion and depravity, then we must ask ourselves this question, “What promise is reigning in my heart today and affecting my actions and attitudes?” Is my heart grounded on God’s solemn promise of eternal life and all that I need to attain it? Or is my heart constantly swayed by the winds of promises from political parties, economic groups, worldly pleasures and status, public acceptance, etc. Those promises will surely leave us disappointed in this life and in the next because those who make them are not trustworthy enough that we can place all our hope in them and, most importantly, we are made for God alone, to share in His blessedness and only His promises are guaranteed.
There are many things in this life that we do not understand. Why are there crises in my life when I know that God loves me? Why is the Church plagued with scandals when the Holy One lives in her? How can I break away from this sinful habit that I struggle with? We must then recall that the promise of eternal life and all that we need to attain it has been made to us by God. He has fulfilled it by raising Jesus Christ from the dead and given us a participation in His own divine life by the gift of faith received in holy baptism. We will strive with hope when we let His promise reign in our hearts to the point that it affects our actions and attitudes.
Let us turn to Mary, the Mother of Good Hope, to help us be grounded in God’s promises to us. She became Mother of God while being a chaste virgin. Talk about a difficult and mysterious demand from God! Did she understand it all? No. She acted on His words because God’s promises to her reigned in her heart, “You will conceive in your womb and give birth to a Son.” She knew that the One who spoke these words to her was trustworthy and she was not disappointed.
God renews His promise to us today in this Eucharist. He pours into our hearts all that we need to serve Him till He returns in glory as He inflames our hearts with desire for our heavenly home. If His promise reigns in our hearts, we shall act on His words no matter how mysterious or demanding they may be and we will never be disappointed in this life or in the next.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!