Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
It’s only a week since gun-violence claimed the lives of ten people in Oregon district in Dayton. Last Sunday night, I was among the more than 2,500 people gathered at the very spot where a young man had unleashed terror and death. It was not even twenty-four hours since the mass shooting, but people had the courage to come together and be a community! What makes human beings act in this way? What is it about human beings that in the darkest hour, we never give up! It’s called faith. It may not always be religious faith. But it’s faith. Faith is the inexplicable conviction human beings have, that in spite of it all, we can approach the next moment, the next hour, the next day, the next week, indeed, the future with hope! “I’ve gotta have, faith, faith, faith,” goes a George Michael song! In today’s scripture reading, we might as well hear the author of the letter to the Hebrews say, “We’ve got to have faith, faith, faith!”
Here are my three points for today:
- Defining Faith. The Christian definition of faith comes from today’s second reading. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” This definition reveals a paradox, does it not? How can we realize/attain what is only hoped for? How can have evidence of things not seen? Here precisely is the paradox! Faith becomes necessary precisely because we do not realize everything all at once, and we do not have evidence of everything we not seen yet. As Hebrews points out to us about Abraham, whether it was about the new nation promised him, or the birth of Isaac, or the sacrifice of his son Isaac, he had to believe before the promise could be realized. Conceptually, while this is hard to grasp, we exercise faith more often than we think. Think of a couple that is about to get married. They have no idea what their life together is going to be like, but they say, “I do!” That is faith. Parents decide to bring children into the world. They have no insight into the child’s future, but they have faith. Children go to school and get an education in the hope that it will get them gainful and meaningful employment. People don’t get an appointment letter and then decide whether to go to school. We go to school with the confidence that one day education will pay off. That is faith. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” If you think of yourself as a person of little faith, think again. As human beings we exercise tremendous amount of faith every day! By nature, we are a people of faith. As Christians, our challenge is to translate our very natural human capacity and apply it to the religious realm.
- Keep the Faith. The early Christian communities faced a faith problem. Gospel passages like the one we have today were meant to directly addressed the issue. The issue was the delay in the coming of Christ. To add to this, In 70 AD, the Romans laid siege around Jerusalem had devastated the Temple of Jerusalem. Many believers interpreted the destruction of the Temple as a sign that the end was imminent. However, years passed, and there was no sign of the Christ. The delay in the coming of Christ, along with the destruction of the Temple, shook the faith of many people. Add to this already critical situation, the reality of persecutions, and we have the conditions for a perfect faith-crisis. Parables, like the parable of the faithful steward we have in today’s gospel reading, were meant to strengthen their faith. They were also meant to warn the believers against complacency and hopelessness. Perhaps, these parables are more relevant for us today than it was for the early Christians. We are removed from the Christ event by more than two thousand years. It is possible for us to lose perspective. It is possible for us to lose sight of our destiny. It is possible for us to mistake our earthly pursuits for our eternal destiny. It is possible for us to lose faith. In the latest survey from the Pew Research Center, data reveals that only one out of three people believes that that bread and wine in the Eucharist is in reality the Body and Blood of Christ. Beside the data, I hope this survey helps us appreciate the faith-struggle of the early Christians. This week allow the parable of the faithful and vigilant steward to speak to you. I hope and pray that each one of us can be one such steward.
- The Faithful and Vigilant Steward. From the Christian perspective, why does faith matter? Faith matters for two reasons. First, faith matters because our destiny lies in the future. When eternity with God lies in the distant future, it is easy to become obsessed with that which we have now – our wealth, our reputation, our fame, our guns, our power, the pleasures of life. Only faith keeps us grounded in our Christian destiny. Second, faith is important because faith invites us to live our lives from the perspective of our future destiny. And this is where the rubber hits the road. Jesus says to us in today’s gospel, “Where our treasure is, there will be your heart!? I am inviting you to reflect this week on Jesus’ words. What is our treasure? Where is our treasure? If, as Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be,” where is our heart? If Jesus were to come today, would we be considered faithful and vigilant stewards? I said in my first point that faith is a natural human condition. We exercise faith in many areas of our daily lives. This week reflect on how we can also apply this ability to our faith in God.
It is faith that gathers us each week around this altar. It is faith that makes us approach the altar to receive Christ in the Eucharist. Even as we live in this complex world which awaits Christ, let us put our heart where our real treasure is – Jesus Christ.
- Fr Satish Joseph