Seeing is NOT believing!

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 18:6 - 9

The night of the passover was known beforehand to our fathers, that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage. Your people awaited the salvation of the just and the destruction of their foes. For when you punished our adversaries, in this you glorified us whom you had summoned. For in secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice and putting into effect with one accord the divine institution.

Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19

Brothers and sisters: Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God. By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age —and Sarah herself was sterile— for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy. So it was 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. All these died in faith. They 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, for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.” He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

Luke 12:32-48

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

No doubt, we live in a cynical world filled with distrust and malicious deception. Many would feel that individuals or institutions are not to be trusted as promises are carelessly made but rarely kept. When politicians proudly proclaim a new tax credit or tax cut, citizens would often protest, “We’ll believe when we see it!” They live by the motto, “Seeing is believing”. Perhaps their faith has been misplaced? Could this severe deficit in faith ever be restored? This week’s readings remind us that faith, though intangible, is the iron-clad “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). However, this gift of faith also demands our response. God invites us to participate in His salvific plan.

The faith of Abraham, Sarah, and Moses demonstrates that our God is ever faithful; He is infinitely loving and merciful despite our disbelief. Time and again, we, like the Israelites, turn away from God; perhaps due to fear, short-sightedness, greed, impatience, or simply our inflated ego. We trust our own instincts above God’s will; trading in genuine grace for short-term gains. The Book of Wisdom reminds us of God’s faithfulness. It is described that the forefathers of Israel are able to take courage on “the night of the deliverance from Egypt” because they have received “sure knowledge” of the Passover miracle (Wis 18:6). They believe, period, without seeing! This is because their courage is rooted in God’s “oaths” or promises. They place their trust and take courage in their faithful God who has journeyed with their ancestors throughout history. Indeed, “blessed the people the Lord has chosen as his heritage” (Ps 33:12).

Similarly, Abraham’s faith encourages us to have confidence in God. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive; as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb 11:8). He and Sarah left the place of familiarity and comfort to live in a “foreign land, living in tents” (Heb 11:9). Equally impressive is Sarah, who initially laughed at the idea of bearing a child at her “old age” but eventually believed “because she considered him faithful who had promised” (Heb 11:11). In addition, when God asks Abraham to offer Isaac, “his only-begotten son”, he obeys without hesitation because he has faith in God’s promise, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you” and the fact that God is capable of bringing someone “from the dead” (Heb 11: 18-19). Finally, St. Paul explains that though Abraham would never set foot onto the Promised Land, he remains faithful to God as he “desire[s] a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb 11:14). God has given everything to Abraham but at the same time, patiently awaits Abraham to freely respond. “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Lk 12:48). Indeed, not only do his conscious decisions exemplify true faith that focuses on “things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”, he has also demonstrated the importance of collaborating with God – the ultimate “architect and builder” (Heb 11:1,10).

Indeed, as God unfolds His beautiful salvific plan through Abraham, Sarah, and Moses, God also invites us to collaborate with Him. Through their examples, we are reminded to believe and invest in God’s love and promise instead of the empty promises of the world. May our hearts be rested in God “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Lk 12:34). Like the holy people of God portrayed in the Old Testament, we are tremendously gifted with God’s grace, therefore, “do not be afraid” to answer God’s call (Lk 12:32).

Posted: August 11, 2019

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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