In today’s readings, we hear in the Letter to the Hebrews about faith, which is defined as follows:
Faith is the realization of what is h0ped for and evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
It was by the gift of faith that Abraham was capable of answering God’s call to leave behind the familiarity of his homeland to journey to a place where God would make of him a great nation. Abraham and his descendants believed in God’s promise to be with them. They believed in the faithfulness of God. They believed in the love of God for them. By faith, they put their trust in God.
In an interesting line, the Letter to the Hebrews goes on to say:
All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland. (Hebrews 11:13-14)
There seems to be a contradiction in these two quotes. In the first, we hear that faith is the realization of what is hoped for, as if it is attained in this life. Then, we hear that Abraham and his descendants did not receive what had been promised… This is a very timely teaching. The promises of God are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Even for us, living in the time after Christ, can benefit in allowing our own horizon of hope and expectations of faith be expanded beyond this world and time.
In the Gospel today, (Mark 4 35-41) Jesus is asleep in a boat with his disciples when a storm arises. As the waves break over the top of the boat and begin to fill the boat with water, the disciples are filled with fear, and they awaken Jesus to ask him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus rebukes the wind and instructs the sea to be quiet, and calm is restored.
Then, Jesus asks them: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” On a very human level, we can certainly relate to the disciples’ experience of fear in the face of nature’s strength and fury. But, can we also relate to the challenging question of Jesus to hold on to faith precisely in the midst of life’s storms? After all, the One who has command of the forces of nature has command of all life, including our own.
Faith gives us the grace, the strength to believe in God’s love. Faith provides us the means to also believe in God’s promise to be with us always. I love this passage of Jesus asleep in the boat with his disciples. It is a powerful image for us, Jesus is with us! When we truly believe (faith) in God’s love and God’s promise to remain with us always, then we are capable of the trust that he calls us to place in him.
Here is the kicker, which takes us back to the quotes from the Letter to the Hebrews. Our trust in God (faith) calls us to live our faith at all times, when things are going well, and especially when we are being challenged. We are called to live according to the Gospel message, even when the culture around us promotes something in direct contradiction to those values, even when such contradictory ways are imposed as a matter of law.
We may not (and will not) win every effort to convert the cultural values around us, but we are called to be faithful to Christ. We may even have to suffer as a result of such faith-filled choices. Some may even face death (as in the middle east today) for fidelity to Christ. Whether our efforts bring about immediate change, whether our faithfulness leads to suffering or death, God is always faithful. The promises of God are fulfilled in Christ. Our faith calls us to remain in Christ now, and our reward will be a new life in Christ for eternity.
God’s fidelity cannot be measured in time, but only in Christ!