19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: A MOVING FAITH
God requires a moving faith, not faith that is stagnant or dormant. A moving faith is patient and consistently waits for the Master. A moving faith enables the faithful servant to gird their loins, have their lamps lit, and readily wait until the master’s return. A moving faith invests for the sake of eternity, for which Christ says, “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
Imagine Abraham being an immigrant, using today’s language. He is asked to leave his home country to a place unknown to him, so let’s just say he is coming to the US. Abraham obtains a visa, yet has no knowledge about this new place and has no prior connection. Abraham arrives in the country and faces a series of immigration issues. His option is to either give up and go back home where he feels safe and comfortable or stay in the US to figure things out. His green card and resident permit card have not arrived. He is constantly harangued by immigration. His immigration attorney advises him to leave the country for good. Abraham decides to stay and try to work it out. His only trust is God because he strongly believes that God will take care of things. Then, Abraham and his wife have fertility issues and they go to their doctor. The OBGYN tells Sarah and Abraham that they cannot conceive a child, especially because Sarah is way beyond the age of conception. Abraham and Sarah refuse to go by medical predictions. They inform their doctor how much they love each other and how much they pledge to stick with each other in good times and in bad. They would not mind that their expectations about procreation are not met. However, they believe that God does miracles, “for the One who had made the promise was trustworthy.” Finally, after a prolonged waiting, they have a boy. Because he is an only child, they are expected to just play nice with him, pamper him, give him everything available and possibly spoil him. Just do whatever makes him feel good even if that means deviating from teaching this child the truth. Abraham refuses to do that. He is ready to sacrifice the pleasure of this only child. He wants to offer him up to God.
Abraham teaches us how to beat all odds in the readings of today. Think about the expression, “God’s time is the best,” and Abraham comes to mind. That is why he is known as our father in the faith. In him we find the fulfillment of this classical Hebrew definition of faith as “the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things, though unseen” (Heb. 11:1). For Abraham, everything should happen as proposed and planned by God.
In the gospel, Jesus introduces us to the image of the kingdom as the reason for our faith –“Do not be afraid, any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” This explains the reason why Christians do extraordinary things here on earth -give alms, shelter the homeless, bandage the wounded, etc. Why do we have to sell what we have to help the needy if not for our faith? And why faith if not for the things that eternally endure? For these reasons, Jesus points our attention to the true meaning of investment, “Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” My dear friend, where exactly are you storing your treasure? Where will you say your heart is? Remember the rich fool parable of last Sunday, Jesus was responding to the man who came to ask him to command the brother to share their inheritance. Jesus warned against being like the rich fool who stored treasure for himself on earth and taught us the value of an eternal investment. Faith is the tonic for eternity remembering mostly the last things -death, heaven, hell, and judgment.
The metaphor of the servants awaiting their master’s return highlights those attributes of faith required of a faithful servant. Like Abraham, a faithful servant girds their loins. To gird one’s loins means to brace for action shunning the excesses that cause distraction. A faithful servant is ever ready to wait for the master’s return (a metaphor for judgment). A faithful servant keeps their lamps lit and their oil ready. A faithful servant takes seriously Jesus’ warning, that those who live as if the world were all there is, who seek its pleasure as if there is no future, will be shocked when he shows up and judges them. It does not matter what delusions such servants hold about being disciples, rather what matters is authentic witnessing through a moving faith.
Let us exemplify this definition of faith as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” We must take some risky dive into the unknown for the sake of God. In my case, I see it happening as the process of building Emeka’s Orphanage in Nigeria unfolds. Still, I cannot comprehend how I could get involved in a 200,000 dollars project when I could barely boast of having 10,000 dollars in my account. Isn’t that the definition of craziness in human terms? When I presented that thought to some people, at first, they thought I was in a dream and needed to wake up. But each day, I tell myself that the God who promised would make things happen for these orphaned kids with various levels of disability. While at home visiting Nigeria, it was a high risk to drive through a 4-hour journey to go down where these kids are staying, but I needed to visit them. We drove to that place and got back home without any harm. As I got to their city Abakaliki, it was still unreal to me. Here I was, coming to invest in a place that I had hitherto no connections with, a place where I had known no one prior to that time. It was strange to me walking into a piece of property that I had acquired from a distance. That I was beginning to build a fence to protect this property and that in the nearest future, I was going to start building 200,000 dollars home for these children to live in. Now we are planning a big fundraising dinner/auction for this project. Honestly, I do not know the people to give me this kind of money because even though I know generous individuals at this parish, the individuals I know may not have the kind of money required to complete this project. Christ reminds me today, that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” If you ask me today, where my heart is, I will tell you that it is in building Emeka’s Orphanage home for these children which gives me the passion to plunge into the risk with God. Only faith can beat the odds. And I ask you, where is your heart?
Faith ignites a passion for doing things for the sake of heaven. Faith reminds us that the earth will pass away and that hell is real. Faith makes us realize that a great responsibility is bestowed on us as believers. Faith moves us to seek God’s will. Christ gives us a take-home today: “Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out.” Let us behave like the servants who await their master’s return from a wedding. Stay vigilant in service to God through an active, moving faith. Remember, where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. Again, think about this, where is your heart?