C Cycle – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time 19
I love the translation of Hebrews defining faith as “confident assurance in things unseen and yet believed.” What is we believe? It is critical to us growing in faith to understand what we believe and how often we rely on ourselves instead of a trust in “things unseen and yet believed.”
All too often we confuse faith with knowing facts, history, details, or so many aspects our faith practices and dogma. Belief in those things were exactly what Abraham was doing when he heard the voice of God telling him to go. Paul tells us he went out without ever knowing where he was going. How did he know which direction to go? Something internal was guiding him and he was certain the direction he was going was the correct way to go. Faith was at work according to Paul.
It would be critical for us to reflect in our hearts about our own choices as we hear the scriptures today. They are given to us to reveal something about our own relationship with God. What did Abraham know about God when he heard his voice and how did he learn those things about God. There were no scriptures, Moses was not yet, what did Abraham except the oral history of the creation, the fall, the covenant with Noah and a belief in God.
A belief strong enough that Abraham took time to spend time talking and listening to God. He built a relationship strong enough to believe, trust and obey. Do we believe that way? We have faith enough to schedule vacations months and sometimes a year in advance. We purchase tickets for popular events months in advance believing we will be around to enjoy the event. We believe in the sun will rise tomorrow. But do we believe God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in love and fidelity as He reveals himself to Moses (Ex. 34:6).
We know more people have formed an image of God as Father based on their own relationship with their father. The problem is their father was not loving, kind, merciful, gracious and was quick to anger and metered out punishment for breaking the rules he established. Their father did not forgive, nor did he forget, and you were constantly reminded of your failings. Because of our failing to have a father figure even half as good as God has created in us a distrust of God and his promises.
Abraham faith is too perfect and therefore we cannot even measure up to that kind of faith so why even hold him up for us to see how our faith can be like his.
God tells us plainly and directly he desires our hearts not our sacrifices. It is not what we do it is what we believe that matters. Do we believe God when he promises, promises to send his Spirit to us to change our hearts so we will believe the way Abraham believes? Do we believe God desires nothing but good for us as he tells us through the prophet Jeremiah? Do we believe what God desires is for all of us to know His mercy and feel His love? Your response to those questions is foundational how strongly we believe and how much we trust God’s promises.
Does this mean we if we hesitate for a moment we will miss out on a promise of God or we will have to do something to regain God’s favor? Absolutely not and we can look at Abraham to see how this man of faith had his moments of self-reliance.
When Abraham went to Egypt, he was concerned about Pharaoh taking Sarah into his harem because of his beauty. Moses knew Pharaoh would kill him to have Sarah as his wife, so he comes up with a plan to save his life. “Let’s say you are my sister so that I may fare well on your behalf” (Gn. 12:12). This great father of faith was willing to let Pharaoh have his wife to save his own life. Where was his belief in God’s faithfulness to be there when he needed him? Well they do say Sarah was his sister and Pharaoh took her and was preparing her for his moment with her. God sends a plague to Pharaoh’s household and Pharaoh sends Sarah back to Abraham.
Does God punish Abraham for his lack of trust? No because God understands our weaknesses and he is slow to anger, rich in kindness and merciful.
When Sarah remained barren, Abraham decides to take matters of “being the father of so many descendances’” in his own hands. He sleeps with the salve girl Haggar. We do not have time to cover this story, but you should read it in the 16th and 17th chapter of Exodus. Does God punish Abraham for his lack of patience while waiting for God to act? No, he makes a new covenant with him affirming his promise.
Belief in God needs to be dynamic and active and when we believe deeply in our hearts that God’s desire to fulfill his promises do not depend on us doing things to please God. Abraham did things which we know are not pleasing to God. He also shows remarkable trust in God to be willing to sacrifice Isaac. He shows remarkable faith believing God would make him the father of many nations while knowing both he and Sarah were well beyond childbearing years. He still believed and he still trusted in God.
This week God is speaking to your heart asking you to respond to the question He puts to each of us.
Can you believe God has by the gift of Jesus forgiven your sins and that was not in response to your acts of contrition, but it was because God desired to remove all barriers you believe exist between Him and us?
Can you beliefe God desires you to allow him to lead you to a place where He has always desired you to experience; the kingdom on earth where miracles happen daily.
Can you believe God desires you to live your faith walking on water daily, expecting God’s blessings and feeling God’s presence, even when you fail to see God believing He is near and He will speak to your heart.