Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on August 11, 2019 at the 8:00am and 10:30am Masses
Joe was hiking alone at the top of a high canyon. He stopped to take a selfie of himself, but he got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he was able to grab a branch, which kept him from plunging to his death, but he was now stuck a thousand feet above the canyon floor with no way to climb up the steep wall of the canyon to safety. So he began yelling “HELP! HELP! IS THERE ANYONE UP THERE THAT CAN HELP ME?”
Instantly he hears a voice, “I can help you.”
“Who are you?” Joe asked, and looking around and not being able to see anyone around, he added, “Come to think of it, where are you?”
“I am God,” the voice replied, “and I’m right here with you.”
Joe believed in God, but he had not been the most faithful person during his life, so he nervously asked God, “Will you save me?”
“Certainly. Just do what I tell you.”
“I’ll do whatever you want, God. Just save me,” Joe replied.
“First, I want you to let go of the branch, Joe.”
Joe paused for a moment, looked down to the bottom of the canyon, then up to the top of the canyon, and then began yelling, “HELP! HELP! IS THERE ANYONE BESIDES GOD UP THERE THAT CAN HELP ME?”
How often in my own life I have said, “Anything you want, God, but not that!” Anything, but not a deacon. OK, I’ll be a deacon, but I won’t preach. OK, I’ll preach, but I’ll do it from the ambo. Now here I am out front. Faith is a journey.
In today’s second reading we hear a summary of the journey of faith of Abraham. First, he was called by God to leave his home and go to a new land. The reading says, “He went out, not knowing where he was to go.” His home was in the land of Ur, which was in present day Iraq along the Euphrates River near the Persian Gulf. He travelled from there to Haran in Mesopotamia, which is near Iran, and then was called by God to Damascus, which still exists in present day Syria. He travelled from there to what would eventually be his final destination, the land of Canaan, which is present day Israel, but because of a famine, he had leave and go to Egypt. After spending some time in Egypt, he again returned to the land of Canaan. It was a very wayward route that God led him on. He covered almost the entire Middle East in his travels. There were many more direct routes that God could have led him on, but God took him by the scenic route. Abraham kept his faith and followed God’s path for his life.
How hard it can be to keep faith and trust God in our own lives. We live in a time when we put an address into our GPS and we know exactly the time we will arrive. If there is trouble road ahead, like an accident or construction, we are instantly rerouted around the trouble. We like to know what’s going on and when things will happen. We like to get to our destination as quickly as possible. I’m going to the Grand Canyon next month and someone at work said, “That flight is brutal.” I said, “I know. That’s why I’m driving!” It’s not just the destination; it’s the journey there. Especially when it’s the journey of faith. So often we wonder why God is taking so long to answer our prayers and fix the problems in our lives. To God the journey can be just as important as the destination. We are impatient and don’t like delays.
Patience is an important part of faith. God promised Abraham that he was going to have as many descendants as stars in the sky. Yet at the age of ninety he and his wife Sarah had no children. Today’s second reading said he was so old, “He was as good as dead.” Yet God eventually blessed them with Isaac, despite Sarah’s barrenness. Not only does this story teach us the importance of patience in our faith, it shows us that no matter our age or our state in life, God is still at work in our lives. Faith is a journey that we never stop travelling. I was visiting an older woman in a nursing home when I was in the deacon formation program, and she said to me, “The Lord hasn’t taken me yet, so he wants me to do something. I guess he wants me to pray, because that’s all I can do in this bed.” Her prayers are probably part of the reason I am a deacon today. Faith is important at all stages of our life, young, old, and in between, because God always has a plan for us.
Finally, the biggest reason that Abraham is considered the Father of Faith – his response to God’s request that he sacrifice his only son to him, the son he had waited 90 years for. I’m sure Abraham was confused. He waited all this time for a son, and when he finally receives him, God wants to take him from him. But Abraham never questioned God’s plan. Our response in this situation would be, “Anything you want, God, but not that!” But Abraham follows through on God’s request right up to the very moment that he is going to plunge the knife into his son. Faith is “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen,” as we heard in the second reading. It’s keeping faith until God’s plan is realized in our lives.
In today’s gospel Jesus talks about being a good steward, following the master’s will, remaining vigilant when there is a delay. Are we good stewards of our faith? Do we follow God’s will for our lives? Are we patient, even God’s will for our life seems delayed? Jesus also says, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” What do we treasure? Where are our hearts? What do we put in front of our faith? We all have things in our lives that keep us from God. It might be our possessions (Jesus would say donate them to our flea market), withholding our time, talent, or treasure (Jesus would say volunteer at our bazaar), and so often we hold on to our sins and bad habits (like impatience and un-forgiveness). As we have seen in the shootings and other violence in the past week, we live in a world that clings to hate, prejudice, and fear.
Faith is not just believing or hoping, it’s living your life knowing God is with you, and God’s presence changes you: what you say, think, and do. Faith is letting go of whatever branches are keeping us from fully embracing God. If we do that, we are the faithful and prudent steward, and the Father will be pleased to give us the kingdom and the inexhaustible treasure in heaven.
Rejoice and be glad!