Saturday 29th January
Hebrews 11:1ff. Faith is our certainty that we await a better hereafter, with God in whose promises we trust.
Mark 4:35ff. Jesus quells the storm at sea, showing his divine power in overcoming the forces of nature.
Limitations and Ideals
We are just human beings, neither angels nor gods; we live on our lovely, fragile planet earth, not yet in our heavenly mansions. We deal with uncertain hopes and struggle with opposition, using our eyes, ears and mouths, our imagination, memory and intellect, our emotions and will-power, faculties that function only while we are awake, that operate only according to the strength and resiliency of our body.
Alongside these limitations, another facet stares us in the face, both from the Scriptures and from observation of life, our own and others, personally seen or known through newspaper, TV and radio. We see handicapped people sometimes accomplishing more than many who are in full health and vigour; and others who are faithful, day after day, to family obligations, and are dedicated to helping others with their health needs and getting their social rights. These people carry on as though such routine heroism is normal, though we ourselves would find it hard to persevere even for a month in such circumstances.
How often people achieve what seems beyond human strength, and work towards their goals not by flying on the clouds but with feet on the earth of our earthly pilgrimage. The readings invite us to reflect on the call to heroism through the lives of men and women who people the pages of the Bible. These were ordinary folk, with human weakness and temptations – yet lived with “confident assurance about things we do not see.” These words from Hebrews identify a cloud of witnesses hovering over us and beckoning us also to be men and women of faith.
Ideals are more than statements in a book, even a book as sacred as the Bible; they go beyond mere philosophical deductions, for God is immediately and personally involved. Nathan, in God’s name, told David, “You despised me in taking the wife of Uriah to be your wife.” God is the origin of our ideals, so that in acting as we know we should, we seek God and love God; as on the contrary, when we hurt others, we repudiate and despise God. This is concretised in Jesus’ words: “As often as you did it for one of my little ones, you did it for me”, Matthew 25:40.
He is with us always. We are not alone during the storms at sea, when buffeted by raging wind and by waves breaking against our “boat.” Jesus says to us, as to the disciples , “Why are you so afraid? Why so little faith?” In him our inabilities are suffused with new strength and our eyes see again a vision of our heavenly home, that enables us while still on earth to forgive, to be patient, to remain faithful, and to put our ideals to work.
First Reading, Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old – and Sarah herself was barren – because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, 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 offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead – and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”