There are few things more basic to our faith…than faith. It is indeed a great treasure, a great gift from God for which we can be thankful. But while there are few things more basic to our faith than faith, at times strong faith can sometimes (or maybe often) seem mysterious to us, and living and growing in faith as we go through life may seem elusive. And perhaps the kind of “cut and dry” parable in our Gospel reading today about faithful, prudent, and vigilant servants—verses those who are not—doesn’t help us too much if we’re struggling, and otherwise might still be a little intimidating for us.
But in our second reading from Hebrews we see a connection between faith and hope. We are given the example of Abraham, who “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.” In faith and hope, “he went out, not knowing where he was to go…seeking a homeland…a heavenly one.” Abraham was promised numberless descendants, and yet in faith and hope he was ready to offer his only son Isaac. And, as it says in the letter to the Hebrews, Abraham and all of his family died long before seeing through what had been promised. They were still on their pilgrim way, though they knew “the realization of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” We, too, are pilgrim people on the way. We have the promise of eternal life in heaven if we are faithful, prudent, and vigilant servants; and Jesus instructs us to always look to be ready for his return.
We’re not waiting faithfully, prudently, and vigilantly for nothing. We need not fear the master’s return, but desire it. For our faith is not rooted directly in concepts, rules, ideas, or philosophies, but in a Person. We prepare in hope for the return of the Master because He created us, knows us, loves us, has revealed Himself to us, became one of us; suffered, died, and rose for us; has prepared a place for us, and calls us to Himself to live with Him forever.
I like that one TV commercial that says, “What if one piece of kale could prevent cancer…What if one sit-up could prevent heart disease.” That would certainly be great with me! Of course, this commercial is promoting this shot that you do only take once a year and you’re good to go. (I can’t remember what it’s for…it doesn’t matter.) But our life of active faith is not like that. We can’t just say one prayer, go to one Mass, have one confession, participate in one Ignite, read one Scripture verse, help just one person. All of these kinds of things are to be an ongoing part of our life, our family life, our parish life.
Journeying through life in faith and hope is not just some blind leap out into the darkness, wishing somehow to land on the right side of heaven. Christ is the light that shows the way, and so our daily vigilance and watchfulness is being open to receiving that light and following in its way. But God knows none of us are perfect, and so as we strive each day to live and grow in faith and hope—in our successes and in our struggles—faith and hope themselves are gifts to keep us moving, with the help of the Church and the sacraments, the Scriptures and prayer, our endless opportunities to give of ourselves in loving service, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
I think all of this summed up nicely in the well-known prayer written by priest and monk Thomas Merton in the 1950s. It is a prayer of pilgrimage in faith and hope, which we are all on in various ways and places. He says,
“MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. 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.” (Thoughts in Solitude)
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