Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
Lessons in Faith
This Sunday's readings all approach the subject of faith: that gift from our loving Creator which allows us to love, trust, hope in things unseen and act courageously as we follow Christ and witness to a new life in Him.
The stories of the OT show God to be a caring and compassionate being, who actively guides and directs history from the start. He is not a god who hangs in out in the clouds, always at a distance, but makes His presence known in concrete and personal ways. One important means of realizing God's care and compassion was fulfillment of the oaths or promises which God made to His people through history. In our first reading, Wisdom 18:6-9, the Israelites have "knowledge of oaths" or understand God's promises, which lead them to trust and have courage, even in the most trying of circumstances of captivity. They believe in God's ability to deliver them out of Egyptian slavery and so await and plan for the Passover, ready to "put into effect the divine institution." Their acts of faith and trust culminate in a sacrificial meal, then a journey to freedom on an unknown path. In Lumen Fidei, (pg 46, para 35), the Popes write: Religious man is a wayfarer; he must be ready to let himself be led, to come out of himself and to find the God of perpetual surprises.
So our journey in life is the place where we find God's loving hand acting, guiding, directing and testing within the plan of our lives. We respond by faith, accept the challenge with trust and love, then God who loves us unconditionally supports us along the way. From Lumen Fidei, pg 31, para 26: Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love. Through this blending of faith and love we come to see the kind of knowledge which faith entails, its power to convince and its ability to illumine our steps. Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes.
My own journey of deeper faith started when I began to study the Bible. Before that I really didn't know God, His love and certainly didn't have that "personal relationship with Christ," so frequently taught in homilies today. But through coming to know salvation history and God's great love for me and all humans, a passionate faith (love, trust, belief...) blossomed in me, which continues to influence my journey. (Please see the I Thirst Prayer for You Prayer at www.mcpriests.com, to get an idea of God's great love for you!). From other wise women and men, I've come to see how daily bible readings, prayer and meditation can provide answers to the questions of daily life.
The second reading, from Hebrews 11, illustrates Abraham response to God's challenges as he uses eyes of faith, to trust and courageously journey to new, surprising vistas, becoming an example of faith for future generations. God sends Abraham on a journey to a foreign land...Abraham trusts and obediently goes. God promises numerous descendants, despite Abraham being so old he's "as good as dead." We know God's intervention succeeded in creating offspring for elderly Abraham. Later, God tests Abraham's fidelity when He asks that his son be given in sacrifice. Abraham perseveres in this most difficult task, nearly completing it. Through all this, Abraham's faith and ability to act remains unshakeable. Perhaps, as we persevere through life's challenges we come to know we lack nothing as God reveals himself dwelling within our "tents," providing the grace sufficient for each day. The author of Hebrews correctly described Abraham in saying, "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested." (Heb 11:1-2)
Hebrews 11 goes on to account other great patriarchs of faith, who, like Abraham did not "receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth....seeking a homeland....But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. " I don't know about you, but I've been feeling like an alien in a foreign country for awhile. This unsettled feeling perhaps might be explained by these words in Hebrews; the journey in this life is just the beginning. It's a road to greater love, faith and hope in God, in a person named Jesus and ends in His city, the new Jerusalem and with the coming of His Kingdom. So I believe, hope and pray that this unseen dream comes true. St Augustine's famous words that our restlessness ends when we rest in God sheds light on the endless earthly discomfort. Lumen Fidei is also very reassuring, " ...who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb11:6). We can see from this that the path of religious man passes through the acknowledgement of a God who cares for us and is not impossible to find. What other reward can God give to those who seek him, if not to let himself be found?" (LF pg 45, para 45)
In Luke's Gospel, chapter 12, Jesus reminds us not to worry, not be anxious and to have no fear as the Father will take care of all our needs. Further in chapter 12, our Gospel reading this Sunday (Luke 12:32-48) Jesus states this heavenly reward, the kingdom will be given to us by the Father, who is pleased to do so. We can have so much faith in this that we should "sell everything and give alms," storing up treasure in heaven by our earthly actions helping build the kingdom. Our heavenly reward is inexhaustible--it doesn't decay and can't be stolen. These are amazing words which challenge us to work tirelessly for the kingdom laboring on God's plan, sharing our all (for all good giving and every perfect gift is from above Jas 1:17)
Jesus' parables (Luke 12:35-48) reveals the divine perspective on what we humans need to accomplish in life. We are called to prepare and persevere like Abraham: be vigilant awaiting the master's return, ready to open the door at his knocking. We need to know the master's will, having eyes of faith and ears which hear, so our preparations and actions are aligned with the Master, like the prudent and faithful servant. This directive is where we use those precious gifts from God to buildup his kingdom on earth. Interestingly enough, much of life seems to be a discovery of ourselves and our giftedness, which frequently changes with the passage of time. I guess we just need to act with love and compassion in tune with the heart of Christ, no matter the situation or time. Jesus didn't let up with his challenge to us, as the last line of this Sunday's reading demonstrate: "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”
Thank God for His daily graces otherwise how could we live up to God's expectations at all?! Some days, I think I need to leave it all to God, awaiting His lamp light on the path (which sometimes is just hitting my toes and not on the curve in the road 10 miles away--ok, I mean living day by day with the grace that's sufficient for that day). Our parish priest wisely pointed out that the manna in the desert came daily without fail but it wasn't something they could store up or save until the next day. Grace is kind of like that too and it helps us in our life of faith providing for our daily needs--from the book, Forming Intentional Disciples, by Sherry Weddell: St. Thomas Aquinas taught that grace heals the soul by helping us recognize the good while empowering us to desire the good, do the good, persevere in the good, and reach glory.
In summary, my simple description of the journey of faith includes: learning to love God and neighbor, following the examples of love, belief, and trust carved out by Jesus and the OT fathers of faith, learning to surrender to God all daily needs, knowing He will provide what is truly necessary, and hoping in the reward of eternal life.
May God bless you with a strong faith,
provide for your daily needs,
all through His abundant love, grace and mercy.