Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Wis 18:6-9
Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-22
2) Heb 11:1-2, 8-19
Gospel: Lk 12:32-48
Human relationships are rooted in faith. A child trusts firmly in the love of his or her parents, and as children grow, they learn to trust their teachers, friends and adults in their communities. The web of our daily social, economic and political relationships are grounded in the trust we place in others.
In this summer’s blockbuster movie “Elvis” we follow the life story of the “King of Rock and Roll,” who became one of the most significant American cultural icons of the 20th century. In one poignant scene, the young, unknown Elvis meets for the first time Colonel Tom Parker who offers to be his sole manager and representative. Elvis trusted completely that Parker would open the doors of fame and success his musical talent would gradually attract.
As the story unfolds, we see how Parker gradually betrays the trust that Elvis placed in him. Over the course of two decades Parker swindled the talented artist of millions of dollars as he pushed him into grueling recording and performance contracts, from which he benefitted financially. The movie’s depiction of Parker’s betrayal is a reminder of the inevitable frailty of the faith we place in other human beings.
This Sunday the word of God invites reflection on what it means to be a person of faith in God. In the second reading, the author of Hebrews offers a succinct definition of faith as “the realization of what is hoped for, and evidence of things not seen.” But biblical faith is not an abstract philosophical concept. Faith is lived out in the concrete daily lives of countless witness in Scripture and in the church.
We read of Abraham who, time and time again, put his faith in God’s word and providential plan for his life. In obedience, Abraham left the security of his country to journey to an unknown land promised by God. Abraham trusted in God’s promise that he and Sarah would bear a child in their old age so his “descendants (would be) as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.”
The psalmist expresses the attitude of faith when he prays, “Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield.” Just as faith guided, strengthened and accompanied Abraham and countless biblical figures and saints to live in friendship with God, faith can be, for us, a sure companion in life.
In the Gospel, Jesus points to the attitude that shapes a person of faith, watchful alertness for the saving work and presence of God in our everyday life. Faith is a response of trust and abandonment to God, our creator and redeemer so we live in right relationship with God. With faith we put our trust in God’s loving hand of mercy, forgiveness and providential care. Most importantly, faith is not one attitude among others. Rather, faith is the lens through which all our attitudes and relationships come into the loving sphere of God’s love.
As the Christian writer, C.S. Lewis once wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” May we strive daily to grow in faith as we learn to trust in God in prayer saying, “speak to me, Lord.”
How do you grow in faith to strengthen your friendship with God?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.