Monday, October 29, 2007

Faith in These Times of Trial

I see from the dates in my blog that it has been over a month since I wrote anything. I was going over some old reflection I wrote some time ago and thought this might be relevant.

A reading from the letter to the Hebrews
Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see. Because of faith the men of old were approved by God. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called, and went forth to the place he was to receive as a heritage; he went forth, moreover, not knowing where he was going. By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose designer and maker is God. By faith Sarah received power to conceive though she was past the age, for she thought that the One who had made the promise was worthy of trust. As a result of this faith, there came forth from one man, who was himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands of the seashore.

All of these died in faith. They did not obtain what had been promised but saw and saluted it from afar. By acknowledging themselves to be strangers and foreigners on the earth, they showed that they were seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking back to the place from which they had come, they would have had the opportunity of returning there. But they were searching for a better, a heavenly home. Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac; he who had received the promises was ready to sacrifice his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your descendants be called." He reasoned that God was able to raise from the dead, and so he received Isaac back as a symbol.

The Word of the Lord.
Text from :: Lectionary for Mass
Lectionary for Mass, Copyright © 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; © 1969, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

There is a relationship between Faith and remembering. This reading from Hebrews reflects this relationship. The author remembers the key figures from Jewish history and uses their experiences to shape his faith in God’s plan for him. Both Christianity and Judaism are remembering peoples. For the Jewish people there are two great remembering festivals, Hanukkah and Passover. The first celebrates a great victory during which a lamp with but a single day’s supply of oil burned for 8 days. The second celebrates Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.

For Christians the 2 great seasons are Lent (culminating in Easter) and Advent (which leads, of course to Christmas). During Lent one remembers the redemptive act of Christ, and during Advent we remember the loving guidance of God throughout history leading to the Incarnation. We also have the great Sacrament of remembrance, the Eucharist, in which we are requested to “do this in remembrance of me.” For both Christians and the Jewish people the act of remembrance isn’t a matter of history, but an active participation in the events themselves. We aren’t bystanders, but actors in the events we celebrate.

My faith life depends on me to remember what God has done for me. Socrates once said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. I once applied to join a religious order, and was rudely turned down. For years I was angry with God over having to jump through hoops. Now, however, I look back and see that, although I was rejected by the order for lousy reasons, it was the best result for me. I wouldn’t have been happy in that environment, and, more importantly, God wasn’t calling me to that vocation but I was pushing myself into that life. Now, I try to have a more listening attitude with God, which from my understanding is what faith is all about.

My suggestion is that we take stock of what God is asking us. I doubt for most of us that He will ask us for anything earth shattering. For most of us, including myself, it might be to shut up and listen.