The text we heard proclaimed this morning from the Letter to the Hebrews is for me one of the most poignant in all the scriptures.
There is a tendency to pay lip service to the reality of faith, reducing it to merely a sense of optimism or positive thinking, but none of this is what the Biblical witness presents as faith- faith is an act of trust in God and this trust engenders hope, a hope that endures without certitude of outcome and without emotional consolation. Faith, in other words, is demanding, not easy, it is manifested, not by our will to control, but by our willingness to surrender. Faith necessitates a willingness to make sacrifices, to give, even if it means that we do not receive.
We are mistaken if we equate faith with certitude or treat our faith as if it were a magical power that gives us what we want. Nor is faith the imposition of system or ideology. Instead, faith is a disposition of receptivity to God’s will and purposes, both of which will always exceed our expectations and take us beyond the limits that we would out of fear impose.
The Letter to the Hebrews cites Abraham as the paradigmatic exemplar of what it means to have faith, and emphasizes that there was much that he hoped for, that he did not live to see, and the same was true for his descendants. In fact, we are the recipients of promises in which Abraham believed and made many sacrifices for, but he never lived to see those promises fulfilled. Abraham rejoices in heaven for what we have in Christ received and sees us, indeed the Church, as confirmation of his faith.
The Church is God’s promises to Abraham fulfilled.
Our faith, which is the Church’s faith, is not something self-created out of our ideas or opinions or feelings, instead it is the way of life that comes from our acceptance that what Christ reveals about himself is true and what he promises to us is worth our trust. Our faith, the Church’s faith, is not in ourselves, but in Christ.
Our acceptance of Christ and our trust in him brings about a way of seeing and understanding God as a person who loves us and is active in our lives, from this we come to know that each of us is the result of a thought of God, each of us is willed, each of us is loved and each of us is necessary. Faith in Christ compels us to admit that despite the many challenges of life that it is good that we exist and that life has meaning and purpose- and despite difficulties, is worth living.
In today’s excerpt from the Gospel of Mark, the Lord Jesus manifests his divine power by calming a terrifying storm that threatens to take the lives of his disciples. This text is meant to provoke us to remember the opening of the Book of Genesis, where God overcomes the chaos of the primordial waters at the dawn of creation, manifesting his divine power.
This a display of power, the power of his word, Christ answers the question as to who it is that the winds and seas obey? It is Christ the Lord!
Christ is God, who enters his creation in an extraordinary way, by accepting a human nature and living a real, human life. He does so to confront the chaos imposed on his creation by sin and death, and with the power of his creative word, restores order.
But also, this story from Mark’s Gospel is a presentation of the reality of the Church, storm tossed and seemingly overcome by dark spiritual and worldly powers that rage like a storm against her, paralyzing her disciples with fear.
But Christ resides within his Church, his divine life and presence remains among us seemingly passive, but never in reality so, in the revelation of his Blessed Sacrament.
As long as the Church keeps herself in relationship to Christ in his Blessed Sacrament, despite all the dark powers that rage, she remains secure in faith, abiding in hope, and sustained by love.