Embracing God’s gift of faith

| Father Tom Walker | August 8, 2019 | 0 Comments

Sister Della Boucher and members of her community of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet were holding vigil during her final hours here on earth. One close friend asked this very faith-filled servant of God if she had any fear approaching death. Sister Della replied: No, but I’m very curious to know what Jesus looks like.

Our reading from Hebrews this weekend begins: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (11:1) This is one of many gems found in the Letter to the Hebrews, a book of the Bible that is more of an extended homily than a letter. The author is not so much giving us a theological definition of faith as providing one of many words of encouragement (13:22) found in Hebrews for early Christians.

Jan Provoost: Abraham, Sarah and the Angel

After setting forth this way of understanding faith, we hear example after example of the icons of faith from salvation history. For a little homework, I’d suggest you read all of Chapter 11 and at least the first four verses of Chapter 12 to get the full effect of what the author is proposing.

Today we hear about the faith of Abraham. Through faith, Abraham obeyed a call to leave home and head out not knowing where he was to go. (v. 8) Also, by faith he received the power to generate, (v. 9) even though he and Sarah were so advanced in age she laughed at the possibility. His faith allowed 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. (v. 12)

Hebrews continues with a lengthy exploration of the faith of Moses (vv. 23-29) and others. Moses abandoned the power that came with being known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be ill-treated rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin. (v. 25) The examples from Abel through Rahab look at those who often followed the unlikely or unpopular path, because they trusted in God’s word rather than the passing promises of this world.

This leads us into the next gem (12:1) which inspires and challenges us as follows: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.”

Of course, in and through Jesus Christ, the list of witnesses started over in a radically new way and continues to grow. Beginning with our Blessed Mother’s assent knowing that nothing will be impossible for God (Luke 1:37) and St. Paul who finished the race and kept the faith (1 Timothy 4:6-8), there have been so many examples through the ages of those who embraced with their whole lives God’s gift of faith.

Who are those numbered among the cloud of witnesses who inspire you? Who are the people of faith you have known both personally and through hearing their stories? Sister Della is one among many for me. Somehow, I think she already realized what Jesus looked like as her sisters prayed her home, and, God willing, she now gazes upon him face to face.

Father Walker is pastor of St. Michael in Prior Lake.

Sunday, August 11
Ninenteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Category: Sunday Scriptures