Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 11, 2019)
All three readings speak of faith. Faith is not logic; it is a conviction about what we do not see. Most basically, faith is trust.
The second reading deals with Abraham, “Our father in faith” - as our Eucharistic prayer calls him. The event occurred about the year 2000 BCE in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in a territory we now call Iraq.
What singles out Abraham from all other tribal leaders is that he came to faith in the one, true god and that he was the first historical person to do so. He did not know much about God, but he learned something of how God works:
1. God told him that he and Sarah would have a child; it was logically impossible - Sarah was past childbearing years.
2. God then asked him to sacrifice their son, Isaac; it seemed like insanity to be willing to accept. How could there be a logical, divine plan in all this?
3. God asked him to leave his home and his land and he promised him a future. He set out for the Promised Land, not even knowing where his journey would lead.
That is how our God works with us: He asks us to trust, to take a risk, to move forward to a new adventure.
The first reading begins with “that night.” We need to put on our Jewish ears to understand. All Jews knew exactly which night that was: the night that the exodus of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery began. The Exodus is the most startling example of God’s saving power to save for a Jew. The Jews did not move easily to the Promised Land; they spent forty years walking to get there. They were asked to put their faith in God who would accompany them.
Today’s Gospel consists of three short parables about the necessity of our watchfulness. The logic in the progression is that when one learns to trust in God’s generosity, one can wait expectantly and faithfully like servants who must faithfully wait for their master’s return, even if it is delayed. What an unpredictable reward! The master will then serve us servants.
How about us? How about myself? Am I a person of faith? It seems that God has more competition in our day than in any time in history. Our lives are filled with such a high level of distraction that God’s voice is drowned out: radio, TV, and the new electronic gadgets that seem to appear almost weekly- coupled with an increasing hardness of heart by so many toward people in need.
God reciprocates our efforts and has faith in us. We are made in his image and likeness. He knows us inside out because he made us. His seed of goodness planted in us is encouraged to root deeply within us and blossom so that we may serve the people in need whose lives we touch. Just as we trust in God, so God trusts in us to partner in works as an expression of our faith.
We have heard that a journey begins with the first step. There are many outstanding examples. Mother Theresa said that after she got down to attend the first person she found in a Calcutta gutter, it got easier thereafter. Jean Vanier began his work by inviting two institutionalized adults with developmental disorders to live in his home. That was the beginning of l’Arche. Vanier had no idea where that idea would lead. In 2007, hundreds of handicapped people live in one hundred and thirty ecumenical communities across thirty countries.
A book called Rescuers tells how ordinary people rescued Jewish friends and neighbors during the Holocaust. As one says, “You start off storing one suitcase for a friend, and before you knew it, you were in over your head.”
We may not be moved to do such dramatic work for the Lord, but there are so many opportunities to reach out to someone right where we live every single day…if you have enough faith to believe in God, and to believe in yourself. Don’t worry too much about getting in over your head; however much or little you do in God’s name, simply do it from your heart.