A Homily on Faith * 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Augustine, a 4th century theologian and Father of the Church, describes faith in these words: “Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe”. Today’s readings bring us to the core of what it means to believe. They remind us that true faith and trust in God essentially involves action. Only when our faith is united with action can we receive the rewards of faith, that is, “to see what we believe”.
The Book of Wisdom tells us that to believe entails full trust in God’s promise to save. “The night of the Passover was known beforehand to our fathers, that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage”. In today’s world of advance technology and scientific achievements, how easier it is to put our trust in material things and their warranties! (We buy this tablet or that latest edition of iPhones because they promise us more utility or comfort, or even fame by just having them). And how difficult it is to abandon our plans, projects and even our problems into God’s hands! For some, it is easier to get a life insurance than to trust in God’s assurance!
When the Letter to the Hebrew defines faith as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen”, the author was not thinking of a beautiful theory. In fact, he substantiated his definition with the examples of faith of our forefathers, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. Theirs was a faith that involves action: Abraham “by faith sojourned in the Promised Land as in a foreign country… He was ready to offer Isaac as holocaust reasoning that even God was able to raise him even from the dead”. These are concrete examples of what Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI calls “the transformative power of faith” – a faith that transforms lives, that converts vices into virtues, a faith that moves the mountains of pride and selfishness – two of the many sins that we find very difficult to overcome in us. If we truly believe, our faith will slowly but surely make us new persons. They say that love can transform lives. This is true only because love believes and trusts!
The Gospel tells us three important rewards of a transformative faith: First, faith helps us redirect our investments from what is purely material to what is also spiritual. Jesus says, “Make safe investments in heaven, where no thief comes and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. Our heavenly investments are the good deeds that we do in this life. We contribute to the education of poor but deserving students. We provide financial or material assistance to the charitable works of the Church – the Caritas. We give spiritual and financial support for the formation of future priests. We give excuse when we see the defects of others. We are ready to forgive when others offend us. These are what it means to invest in heaven!
Jesus does not warn us against accumulating worldly wealth. Instead, He warns us against accumulating only treasures of this world without considering that our true treasure must be heavenly. Worldly treasures can deviate our hearts from the true wealth. “Where our treasure is, there will our heart be also”.
Secondly, faith makes us vigilant of the many manifestations of God’s presence in our lives. When our heart is focused on the wealth of this world, we become, in a way, deaf to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, blind to the signs of Jesus’ presence, and insensitive to the insinuations of the Father. When we become deaf, blind and insensitive, it is difficult to serve and to please God. Would you hire a deaf, blind or unresponsive household servant?
But when we believe that our Master and Lord is just biding His time because He wants us to be truly ready for His coming, then, we will certainly do what Jesus tells us today: “Be ready, dressed for service and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return… Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival… You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come”. We must light our lamps of faith, opening our eyes to the many signs of Jesus’ presence in the poor, the afflicted, the needy, the sinners, the lonely and the brokenhearted. Doing spiritual and corporal acts of charity can be our way of being vigilant!
Lastly, faith reminds us that God has given us lots of talents and blessings and that to whom more is given, more is required. As the famous line of Spiderman goes: “Greater power demands greater responsibility”. The Gospel today expresses it thus: “Much will be required of the one who has been given much, and more will be asked of the one entrusted with more”. Oftentimes, we are not aware that God expects more from us simply because we ignore the fact that we have received lot of good things from God. When we are insensitive to the blessings that the Lord has given us, our tendency is to be attentive to the blessings God has given to our neighbors. The result is envy and jealousy. Our faith teaches us that we all receive good things from God. How do we appreciate them? How do we invest them so they bear the expected much fruit?
In faith, let us ask the Lord, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to increase our faith, so that we may strive to make investments in heaven, to be well-prepared and vigilant in our life here on earth, and to use our talents and God-given blessings for God’s glory. When we possess this “transformative faith” that believes what is not seen, we shall, then, receive its reward: “to see what we believe”.