After the greeting, “brothers and sisters:” the very first word in today’s 2nd reading is “faith”. The word appears five times in this fairly short passage, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand what the writer wants to talk to us about.
But in our “modern” world, many people look down on faith. They compare it to “silly superstition”. People of faith are immature and unintelligent. People of faith are called “rednecks” and even “losers”. We’re accused of clinging to our guns and our Bibles. Our society demands proof. How can we believe something we can’t prove? We must be fools.
So, here’s the story of Abraham. “By faith (There’s that word again.) he 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.” It reminds me of the prayer by Father Thomas Merton which I have referenced many times. “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.”
I suspect Merton had Abraham in mind when he wrote the prayer. He writes “Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” That’s called FAITH. It’s not simple-minded or naïve, or unintelligent. It’s believing the promises God has made to us.
Remember Abraham’s story. He’s very old but God has promised him “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.” And he believes it! Then God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son and he’s ready to do it, believing that God will raise Isaac from the dead. That’s faith!
In the Gospel Jesus tells His disciples to sell everything to prepare for the life to come. That takes a lot of faith. We have no proof that there even is a life after this one, but Jesus is asking us to give up everything to get ready for it. He’s calling us to commit an act of faith.
But faith isn’t just religious. There are lots of kinds of faith. Even atheists have their own sort of faith. Without faith in certain laws of nature we’d never get out of bed. When we go to bed, we have faith that we’ll wake up in the morning; that we won’t die in our sleep. We trust that our furnace won’t malfunction and poison us with carbon monoxide. We trust that our hot water heater won’t blow up during the night, or that our spouse won’t kill us in our sleep. When we head out in the morning we have faith that the guy coming toward us on the highway won’t suddenly swerve across the center line and hit us head on. Sometimes we have more faith in total strangers on the road than we do in a loving God.
Even something as simple as going to McDonald’s for lunch demands faith that the food is safe to eat; that we won’t be poisoned.
Sometimes our faith is misplaced. We think, “If it’s in the paper, it must be true.” Or, worse, “if it’s on the Internet, it must be true.” That kind of thinking is very dangerous. You know what’s true? This is true. This is the inerrant Word of God and it will never lead you down the wrong path. It just won’t. Anything less, you should be skeptical and do your homework.
We’re in the midst of a critical election season. Candidates on both sides are making promises and accusations and most of the time they turn out to be false, whatever side you’re listening to. Maybe choosing “the lesser of two evils” has always been part of politics, but I don’t remember a time when it was more of an issue. Two out of three people don’t trust either presidential candidate. But we’re going to have to choose one of them, the one you don’t believe will kill us all. It’s not much of a choice. All we can do is have FAITH that our country is bigger and greater than any politician and that God will look out for us.
But, you know what? It really doesn’t matter. In the Gospel Jesus makes us a promise. “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” He promises us “an inexhaustible treasure in heaven”. That’s our faith. We can’t prove it. We can’t see it. We’ve never met anyone who’s been there. But we believe, just like Abraham believed. If Jesus says it, it must be true.