Friday, January 26, 2007

Inherit the Promises January 27

Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 1:1-2

Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” Mark 4:40-41


Jesus, every day we can witness the miracle of you in the Eucharist. We see you work in the lives of blessed people around us who serve the body of the Church without hesitation. Help us to be like Abraham and the cloud of witnesses in the Hebrew Bible who have faith and who actively seek to inherit the promises. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Amen.


What would the “ancients” in the Letter to the Hebrews have thought of the disciples in the boat and others in Mark’s Gospels who challenge Jesus and his authority despite being direct witnesses to miracles? What would they think of us?

From Abel through Samuel, we read example after example of how they had faith despite not seeing evidence of God’s promises fulfilled. They already enjoyed what Christians today who are still struggling do not yet possess in its fullness.

Now, however, if these ancestors could transport forward from Noah’s ark into the small fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee that storm tossed night, how might the faith exhibited in the Hebrew Bible have been tested? We’ll never know how Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and Moses would have reacted if they had a chance to live and walk and talk with Jesus. But the faith of these ancestors stands in stark contrast to the lack of faith observed in those who did witness miracles and evidence.

From the first miracle in the synagogue at Capernaum to the healing of Simon’s mother, the disciples have already witnessed countless miracles. “[Jesus] cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.” (Mark 1:34) Mark teaches about many of the specific acts that Jesus performed. Curing the leper. Healing the multitude of the crowd that had gathered in his home (which upset the neighbors). Healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath (which upset the Pharisees).

Rather than universal acceptance and praise for his work, we see how the crowds which did actually see the miracles did not believe. The doubting disciples in the battered boat are no exception. They are just the latest who challenge Jesus. None of these who encounter Christ directly, have the faith of those ancients who were never able to witness God’s promises fulfilled, people whose faith overflowed despite not seeing.

The letter to the Hebrews reminds us of these faith-filled people and events of the Old Testament to paint an inspiring portrait of religious faith, firm and unyielding in the face of any obstacles that confront it. “We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises. Hebrews 6:12

How many more reasons do the disciples in the boat have to show Jesus a little faith in the face of the storm they faced? Unlike the litany of saints from the Hebrew Bible who are men and women of faith without having direct witness of Jesus, the men in the boat have seen the beginning of God's fulfillment of his promises.


We witness so much good and evil in the world today. From the response to the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, people of good will from all faith traditions reach out to those in greatest need. But we don’t need an extraordinary disaster to move us to generosity. Every day, people give to charity in order to extend God’s reach and their own.

How can you, through acting out the spiritual or corporal works of mercy, make a difference in today’s world?

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