Sunday Sermon for August 7, 2022, the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

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

In the second reading, St. Paul says that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”  The concept of faith has a variety of different meanings, but St. Paul makes it very practical.  Saying it is practical, however, is not the same as saying it is easy.  He speaks of the faith of Abraham as the example of what he means.

Abraham was promised an inheritance of the Holy Land, but he did not know that was the promise.  He left his homeland and even stayed in the Holy Land, still not knowing this was the land he was promised.  Even more, he was promised an heir, a son.  This promise was not fulfilled until Abraham was a hundred years old and his wife, Sarah, was ninety. 

These are important points for us because it shows that faith is not merely a belief in the existence of God, nor it is simply a belief that what the Church teaches is true.  God does exist and the teachings of the Church are all true, but St. Paul speaks of the realization of what is hoped for, not just a generic belief in a particular doctrine. 

It is necessary to begin with belief in God’s existence, belief that He is perfect, and also belief that God loves us so much that He reveals Himself to us and invites us to spend eternity with Him.  His perfection implies that everything He reveals is absolute truth.  His love for us implies that what He has revealed is what is truly the best for us.  His invitation to spend eternity implies a choice we must make to accept God’s revealed truths and love Him.  In other words, just as we see with Abraham, we must act on what we believe before we can receive what is hoped for.

We see something similar in the first reading where the Book of Wisdom teaches us about the faith the people of Israel had when they were enslaved in Egypt.  Two points are made that are quite astounding.  The first is the faith the people had in the Passover.  We are told that the people knew beforehand what was going to happen.  We know this from the Book of Exodus, but what is astounding is that the people had turned against Moses because Pharaoh was making life miserable for them.  They had seen the plagues visited upon the Egyptians, but their condition worsened after each of the signs.

Moses had tried to reassure the people, but their suffering made them want to reject what he was telling them.  Nonetheless, when the night of Passover arrived, they put their faith in what Moses told them, slaughtered lambs, roasted their flesh, put the blood of the lambs on their doorposts and lintels, and ate like people who were in flight.  Think if this were to happen in our day.  We might be willing to eat lamb, and maybe behind closed doors we might dress and eat like we were in flight, but would we be willing to put the blood around our doors?  Would we have faith that what was told us is true?

This act of faith is highlighted by the second point mentioned in this reading: some of the people were offering sacrifices to God.  When Moses came to the people and revealed God’s Name, it might appear that the people had forgotten about the Lord over the 430 years they spent in Egypt.  But the faith was passed down, and it was being lived by some of the Israelites.  This means they knew the promises God had made and, even though it did not seem likely, they had faith that the promises would be fulfilled.  Living their faith in the midst of such difficulty brought these people to see the fulfillment of the promises, the realization of what they hoped for.

Now it is our turn.  Jesus tells us to be like servants awaiting their master’s return from a wedding, prepared to open immediately when he knocks.  In other words, we need to be living our faith.  This certainly means going to Mass, but it is much more than just that.  We must conform ourselves to the truths God has revealed and we must enter into a relationship of love with God Who loves us.  This will allow us to come to truly know God.  When we know Him, we will have complete confidence in Him because we will have experienced His love.

Moreover, we will have experienced His fidelity because, rather than keeping us from adversity, He proves Himself in and through adversity.  Having seen our hopes fulfilled in these situations will solidify our faith in the promise of eternal life and our heavenly homeland.

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

In the second reading, St. Paul says that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”  The concept of faith has a variety of different meanings, but St. Paul makes it very practical.  Saying it is practical, however, is not the same as saying it is easy.  He speaks of the faith of Abraham as the example of what he means.

Abraham was promised an inheritance of the Holy Land, but he did not know that was the promise.  He left his homeland and even stayed in the Holy Land, still not knowing this was the land he was promised.  Even more, he was promised an heir, a son.  This promise was not fulfilled until Abraham was a hundred years old and his wife, Sarah, was ninety. 

These are important points for us because it shows that faith is not merely a belief in the existence of God, nor it is simply a belief that what the Church teaches is true.  God does exist and the teachings of the Church are all true, but St. Paul speaks of the realization of what is hoped for, not just a generic belief in a particular doctrine. 

It is necessary to begin with belief in God’s existence, belief that He is perfect, and also belief that God loves us so much that He reveals Himself to us and invites us to spend eternity with Him.  His perfection implies that everything He reveals is absolute truth.  His love for us implies that what He has revealed is what is truly the best for us.  His invitation to spend eternity implies a choice we must make to accept God’s revealed truths and love Him.  In other words, just as we see with Abraham, we must act on what we believe before we can receive what is hoped for.

We see something similar in the first reading where the Book of Wisdom teaches us about the faith the people of Israel had when they were enslaved in Egypt.  Two points are made that are quite astounding.  The first is the faith the people had in the Passover.  We are told that the people knew beforehand what was going to happen.  We know this from the Book of Exodus, but what is astounding is that the people had turned against Moses because Pharaoh was making life miserable for them.  They had seen the plagues visited upon the Egyptians, but their condition worsened after each of the signs.

Moses had tried to reassure the people, but their suffering made them want to reject what he was telling them.  Nonetheless, when the night of Passover arrived, they put their faith in what Moses told them, slaughtered lambs, roasted their flesh, put the blood of the lambs on their doorposts and lintels, and ate like people who were in flight.  Think if this were to happen in our day.  We might be willing to eat lamb, and maybe behind closed doors we might dress and eat like we were in flight, but would we be willing to put the blood around our doors?  Would we have faith that what was told us is true?

This act of faith is highlighted by the second point mentioned in this reading: some of the people were offering sacrifices to God.  When Moses came to the people and revealed God’s Name, it might appear that the people had forgotten about the Lord over the 430 years they spent in Egypt.  But the faith was passed down, and it was being lived by some of the Israelites.  This means they knew the promises God had made and, even though it did not seem likely, they had faith that the promises would be fulfilled.  Living their faith in the midst of such difficulty brought these people to see the fulfillment of the promises, the realization of what they hoped for.

Now it is our turn.  Jesus tells us to be like servants awaiting their master’s return from a wedding, prepared to open immediately when he knocks.  In other words, we need to be living our faith.  This certainly means going to Mass, but it is much more than just that.  We must conform ourselves to the truths God has revealed and we must enter into a relationship of love with God Who loves us.  This will allow us to come to truly know God.  When we know Him, we will have complete confidence in Him because we will have experienced His love.

Moreover, we will have experienced His fidelity because, rather than keeping us from adversity, He proves Himself in and through adversity.  Having seen our hopes fulfilled in these situations will solidify our faith in the promise of eternal life and our heavenly homeland.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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