August 11, 2019 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Deacon Steve Whiteman

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time  11 Aug 2019        grab onto the rope
Death and taxes.

In 1789, Benjamin Franklin coined this well-known expression when he wrote: “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Death and taxes are still 2 certainties in our ever-changing world but one could argue there are at least 2 other realities to balance these out. 2 things we can always rely on are:

  • God’s enduring love for us and
  • His desire for us to spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Our Gospel reading today certainly doesn’t pull any punches when it talks about death, responsibilities and consequences, but it starts out with some loving advice that is worth repeating. Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms… For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

These encouraging words build on last week’s warning against greed and remind us to set our aspirations beyond this life. But if we only read the Gospel this weekend, we might be left with some questions:

  • How do we deal with the distractions and fears of this world while we store up treasure in heaven?
  • How do we find the strength and endurance to remain vigilant in this life while we await the Master’s return?

Fortunately the answers to these questions can be found in our 2nd reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. The 11th chapter of Hebrews is one of the Bible’s greatest chapters on the subject of faith. You see, it is only through our faith in God that we can remain vigilant and be open to His will for us. This saving faith allows us to be receptive to God’s plan for our lives which will lead us to eternal life with Him.

This chapter from Hebrews not only gives us an eloquent definition of faith but provides many examples of holy men and women who relied on their faith in God to get through the challenges in their lives.

If we look at these examples of faith from Abraham, Sarah and others more closely, we might ask ourselves how they got such a strong faith and accomplished so much in their lives. As it turns out their faith came from the same place that ours does: it’s a gift from God.

In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul tells us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”

This can be a complicated topic but I heard an analogy from Fr Dustin Vu that has helped me: the gift of faith is like a rope that God extends to us throughout our lives. This rope that God offers us is a lifeline for our faith journey, but as you know, a rope only works in 1 direction. You can’t push on a rope. God’s gift of faith is free, but he won’t force it on us.

To benefit from God’s gift of faith we have to 1st acknowledge our need for God’s help and consciously grab the rope. To generate a soul saving tension in the rope we need to let go of the distractions from this world that may be weighing us down and grab on with both hands.

Our faith is a gift from God, but it requires an active response from us. Our faith grows stronger when our response is one of gratitude and willingness to help others. Saint James helps us understand this in the 2nd chapter of his letter: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? ….faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Responding to God’s gift of faith with good works not only strengthens our faith, but sets an example for those around us. One of the best ways to help others find the gift of faith is to lead by example. Friends and family members who have dropped their rope and fell away from the Church may realize something is missing in their lives, if they witness the peace and joy from our life of faith. And remember the words from St. Peter: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…”, but do it with gentleness and reverence.

Remaining faithful and vigilant throughout our lives is a challenge but God’s gift of faith will provide the strength and endurance we need. All we need to do is grab onto the rope and hold on for the ride of our lives.