Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Wisdom 18:6-9
Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-22
Reading II Hebrews 11:2-3, 8-19
Gospel Luke 12:32-48
The readings this morning talk to us about faith, they talk to us about communications and prayer, and how we strengthen our faith. And it gives us a warning: That we better be prepared because we do not know when the good Lord is going to come.
In our second reading today, in the Letter to the Hebrews, we see Abraham, who is sometimes referred to as the Father of Faith — we see how really faith-filled he was. God told him to go out to a place where he had never been before, and he did. He went out. God told him he would have descendants as numerous as the stars. Yet, he and his wife were barren and they had no children for years and years and years.
Then finally, someone comes along and says, “You and Sarah are going to have a child in the spring.” He tells Sarah who is very old and she laughs and says, “Sure.” But do they have a child? Yes. His name was Isaac. Then what happens? Later on God says to Abraham, “I want you to take Isaac and I want you to take him to this place, build an offering of sacrifice, and I want you to kill him.” So he takes Isaac with him and they go to this place, and they build an altar. He then puts him on the altar and is ready to kill him when the angel says, “That is not necessary.” That’s faith.
How many of us have that kind of faith? If God says to us, “You need to take your child and you need to kill him” — that’s a lot of faith. That will not happen today, but the point is that we look on Abraham as that example of faith, and one who we need to follow as our example. So what is faith? Faith in God is a belief in someone we do not necessarily see, we don’t necessarily feel, but yet we believe in Him.
There is a story that tells about a house that caught on fire. Mom and Dad got out and their little boy was still in the house. The boy climbed up to the rooftop and the dad called out, “Joy, jump I’ll catch you. Joy, joy, please jump I’ll catch you.” No. The boy shook his head. He was afraid and would not jump. His dad knows if he doesn’t jump he is going to die.
The little boy cries out, “I don’t see you, Daddy. All I see are the flames and the smoke. I can’t see you.” The dad says, “You don’t need to see me, because I see you. Jump!” And the boy did jump, and the dad caught him in his arms.
This is the way it is with God. We don’t always necessarily see him, but he sees us very clearly. He’s always there to help us if only we ask. So how do we deepen that faith, how do we deepen the faith that we have?
There is a story about this very, very well-to-do couple. They go to Europe, they travel around and enjoy all the sights. They go to the Vatican. The Pope was gone so an official took him into his private office and here was this golden phone. The couple asked, “What is this?” They were told that this was the Pope’s phone that had a direct line to God. The husband asked, “Can I use it?” The man told him, “Yes. But it will cost you half a million dollars.” He decided he didn’t want to spend the money and he and his wife continued their tour.
His ancestry was Irish, so they decided that before they returned to the United States they would go to Ireland and do a little genealogy and see where all his relatives lived. Before they left they decided to go to the local Catholic parish and visit with the pastor. So they went into church and looked at the genealogy books, and when they got to the pastor’s office — guess what? Here was a gold phone. The man said, “Don’t tell me. Is this a direct line from you to God?” The pastor said, “Yes.” And the man asked, “Can I use it?” The pastor answered, “Yes, but it’s going to cost you twelve pennies for six months.”
“Twelve pennies!” the man responded. I was just in Rome and they told me it would cost half a million dollars. The pastor just smiled and said, “In Ireland — it’s a local call.”
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a gold phone and be able to pick it up and say, “God, this is Terry. This is my problem today. Tell me what to do. I need some help.”
You know, we don’t have that gold phone, do we? But faith helps us in our relationship with God, and we increase our faith by talking with God in our prayers, by looking at Scripture, and by looking at each one of us in this faith community. This morning the parents and godparents of Clara have said that they are going to raise this child in the faith. Does Clara have faith? Probably not. But will she have faith? She will have faith if Mom and Dad do what they need to. She will have faith if Father Adam and Brandy do what they need to do. She will have faith if we, as a community of believers, do what we need to do because faith isn’t an individual thing. Faith isn’t — “I get it, I have it forever” — it is something that we need to develop. We develop it as an individual, but we also develop it as a community.
We come here every Sunday to praise God, not as an individual but as a community of believers. We come here to look at each other and to be Christ to one another. We come here to see how things are going — and what can we do to help?
Our second collection is for Haiti. Why do we do that? We do it because of our love for one another, and out of love for our sister parish in Haiti. We look at the Thomas family and all they are struggling with their child. Do we sit back as a community and say, “We’ll pray for you.” We do. But do we do more than that? You know the helping and fund raising activities that are going on within our parish and within our community and within our school — so the answer is yes. The sixth graders who are part of that class will never be the same because of their experience in praying for Carter. We will never be the same. Hopefully our faith is stronger because of what the Thomas family is going through and what others are going through.
When we look at our parishioners who are in nursing homes and hospitals — we go visit them, we take them communion — and we do those things because we know they need us, as we need them. Faith isn’t something that is just there, we always have to work at it. So the question we are being asked today is: How strong is our faith? Is our faith stronger than it was before? Are we reading Scripture? Are we part of Cursillo? Are we part of a prayer group? Are we interacting with each other to help ourselves, and to help each other?
Secondly, within our Gospel it says, “We don’t know. The Good Lord may call us home.” It may be today. It may be the end of the World. We don’t know. But the question is: Do we have the faith of Abraham, do we have the faith to make it through good and bad times? And are we ready today? The Good Lord says, “Come.”
Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0054)