Living Faith Requires Action

08-11-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We tend to think that faith is rooted in reason and in the mind, but faith is actually rooted in feelings and the heart. Faith actually is based in many ways on trust. The scripture this weekend invites us to remember these basic truths about faith.

In the Wisdom section of the Jewish Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament, the actual Book of Wisdom highlights and offers to all of us interpretations and insights into the long memory of Jewish people. The passage today goes back millennia to the very first Passover of the Jews. In this reading we are specially invited to imagine a people who are not yet free, “who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” This enslaved people found courage in their memory of God’s promise to their ancestors. We get the clear sense that they believed but did not dare dream that God’s promise would finally be realized in them. They, however, did escape through the Red Sea. They, in fact, passed over from no real life in Egypt to ultimately life in God’s Promised Land.

The second reading from Hebrews continues along and picks up where Wisdom stops. This description of faith is attached to the enslaved children of Israel in Egypt on the eve of their deliverance. Indeed, when you think about it, the sentence “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” is poignant and profound. The unknown author of Hebrews offers a distinguished list of people who certainly match up to this elegant sentence of truth. Do you recall the faith journey of Abraham and Sarah which was also a physical journey from one geographical place to another? These two were confident, though they had their various moments of discouragement. So, too, Isaac and Jacob had the same moments. Indeed, the fullness of God’s promise was not given to them. They were to wait on God’s promise, and they, in fact, did that. Note how they did this by acting, not just by waiting or passively standing by.

The people who first heard this Gospel story were intently looking to the Second Coming of Christ. Some preferred to do nothing but wait, so as to be totally available when Christ returned. Jesus however says to stay awake and to be alert. He also told us to be generous with our goods and responsible with what is entrusted to us. Bear in mind the basic truth that what is entrusted to us is not ours. Not really. We deceive ourselves when we think otherwise. We are only here for a while and then we are gone, everything is no longer ours. We must, however, be ready and awake when the Lord returns.

When Peter asks if this is true for everyone or just for the disciples, the parable of Jesus answers all of us with a much larger view and understanding. He tells the story of a master who goes away for a long, long time. He entrusts the estate to the servants, expecting them to carry out their responsibilities until such time as he returns.

The message is that those who carry on will receive the reward of their labors. This is what the servants believe, for they trust the master. For Abraham and Sarah, for Isaac and Jacob, for the children of the Passover, for the apostles, and for us, this is all true. We are in the great and magnificent company of believers. This company is both ancient and new. Bear in mind that the ones to whom much has been given, indeed much will be expected. While we wait, our living faith requires action. What we must then do is pass on our faith to others and they must do likewise, until God’s reign is finally realized in the entire world.