11Aug 11 August, 2019. 19th Sunday (C)

1st Reading: Wisdom 18:6-9

Learn from the Exodus: God will save us from all dangers

That night was made known beforehand to our ancestors, so that they might rejoice in sure knowledge of the oaths in which they trusted. The deliverance of the righteous and the destruction of their enemies were expected by your people. For by the same means by which you punished our enemies, you called us to yourself and glorified us. For in secret the holy children of good people offered sacrifices, and with one accord agreed to the divine law, so that the saints would share alike the same things, both blessings and dangers; and already they were singing the praises of the ancestors.

2nd Reading: Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19

In praise of faith, and of Abraham, our father in faith

(or, shorter version: 11:1-2. 8-12)

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: Luke 12:32-48

Fear not, little flock. But be vigilant, faithful

or, shorter version: 12:35-40

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you,he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”


A faith still searching

There is a crisis in the life of faith of many Catholics, even in what once was complacently called “Holy Ireland.” It can be sparked by different things, like the past cruelties of an unjust system, a disastrous love-relationship, family tensions, the tragic injury or death of friends. Sometimes religious feeling can wither as financial prosperity grows, and our need for God is stifled by a sense of self-sufficiency. Perhaps new friendships that we make with nice people who hold no religious beliefs make us feel that God really does not matter after all. On school retreats we used to hear that going through a questioning phase does not mean we have lost the faith. Questioning of faith can also be a growth point. A faith which is challenged can emerge as deeper and more genuine, changing us from the comfort of childhood certainties to new horizons, searching to base our faith on our experiences.

Faith is neither a purely intellectual nor a purely emotional attitude. It has an intellectual side, professing what we judge to be true; and in part it is a matter of responding to feelings; but these are a gift of the Spirit which moves us to give ourselves over to One greater than ourselves. If we hand ourselves over to this sense of God and let go of the illusion of being only for ourselves, it can bring us inner, spiritual growth.

Faith is a special form of knowing, as when we know a friend. It touches an awareness deep within us, an awareness of God’s presence guiding and helping us. It is the experience described about Abraham, Jesus and other great figures in the Bible. Faith is an on-going process, growing as we grow, changing as we change, maturing and we mature. Our childhood faith cannot sustain us in adulthood, though it can develope into one that stays with us through life.

Experiences of faith will be sporadic, and cannot be precisely programmed. We must be grateful if, at priveleged moments we feel God’s special presence, but at other times life will be confusing, full of darkness and doubt, with God silent and seemingly absent. And yet, even in times of confusion and loneliness, God really is there. This world is God’s and God really does know what is going on in it; other people are God’s people and when we dig deep enough, we can find God in them.

Living responsibly

“See that you have your belts done up and your lamps lit.” What meaning can these words have for us, after so many centuries of Christianity? The belts and the lamps indicate the attitude that the servants should have as they await the return of their master. Whenever he comes, they need to be there with their sleeves rolled up and ready for action. They need to be there with the lamps lit, to have the house lit up and to keep themselves awake.

We are called to live responsibly, not in a state of passive lethargy. In the Church’s history it sometimes seems very dark. That does not justify us simply turning off the lights and abandoning hope. It’s the time to awaken our faith and try to plan the future, even in an old and tired Church. The main obstacle to the renewal our Church needs today is the passivity of so many Christians. Unfortunately, for centuries we have been taught to be submissive to authority, rather than be active agents in our own church. But today, we all need to think, project and promote new paths of faithfulness to Jesus.

We need our leaders to encourage the laity to live their discipleship actively. This was one of the main aims of Vatican II, the first council that was concerned directly and explicitly about vocation of lay people. Individual believers today can be the leaven of our parishes in a renewed following of Jesus. They are the greatest potential for the health of Christianity. We need them more than ever to build a Church that is both open to the problems of today’s world and that is close to actual men and women.


 Hanging in there

Abraham’s faith in God eventually brought him serenity and joy. The great patriarch had such trust in God’s promise that it kept him going through life. We are impressed at how Abraham obeyed when God asked him to leave the past behind and launch out into an unknown future.

The Gospel says that a whoever belongs to Jesus need have no fear. People who makes God their treasure, and commit to Christ as our guide to living, see life as a journey leading to our true home where a loving Father is there to welcome us. If we can keep our eyes fixed on the vision that God has promised and attune our ears to the voice of God in the scriptures and in the events of daily life, we can live with confidence in his presence.

The same Gospel suggests that God also makes demands of us. If the saints in Scripture had many proofs of God’s love, they also experienced suffering both as individuals and as a race. Often their faith was seriously put to the test, like that of Abraham and his wife Sarah, when it seemed that the promise of children could never be realized. The spirituality of Abraham ruggedly trying out to follow God’s call in the obscurity of faith remains a template for Christian faith.

We don’t know in advance what demands God’s love may make on us that will clash with our own plans. We cannot know when personal illness, bereavement or some other calamity will put us to the test. But we trust that our life will be a success if we set our hearts on being faithful to the will of God. Our faith, like Abraham’s, leads us onward, always pointing to something still to come. If we have faith like his, at the end of our pilgrimage all of God’s promises will be fulfilled.

Dílseacht chreidimh

Ní fios duinn riomh ré cad a iarrfar orainn chun toil Dé a chomhlíonadh. D’fhéadfadh tinneas, bás cara nó tubaiste sinn a thástáil. Ach geall a bheith dílis do thoil Dé, beidh an t-ádh linn inár saol. Sé ár gcreideamh, maraon le Abraham, a dhíríonn sinn i dtreo na bhFlaitheas mar a gheall Dia duinn. Má credimid i nDia ar uair ár mbáis beidh an bheatha shíoraí i ndán dúinn.


Saint Clare, virgin

Chiara Offreduccio (1194-1253) was one of the first followers and helpers of Saint Francis of Assisi. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition, and wrote their Rule of Life, the first monastic rule known to have been written by a woman. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed in her honour as the Order of Saint Clare, known today as the Poor Clares.

2 Responses

  1. Seamus Ahearne

    Loose words (on a very scattered weekend of Readings):

    All Together Now:
    ‘All Together Now.’ Was a Festival. Curraghmore Estate (Portlaw, Co Waterford) was the Venue. It was the August Bank Holiday. Some 22, 000 converged on the Estate. There was traffic chaos. The crowds invaded my playground. I felt that the sacred ground of my childhood, was soiled. I was remembering the past, and even more so, I recalled the treasure, that the Estate was. How idyllic a place to grow up. (Politically, I have a different view!) I was jealous that these crowds, wanted to play on my ground. (I didn’t recognise even one of the acts). I wonder is it only now, that my heart/mind/imagination is ‘waking up’ to the wonders of God in that Holy Place. The wide open spaces. The countryside. The Half-Door. The Open Table. The kettle boiling. Home. Family. Neighbours. The gift of Community. ‘Where your treasure is; there is your heart.’

    Phoenix Park:
    I walked in Phoenix Park yesterday. It was a glorious afternoon. My bishop-companion was eloquent on the beauty of the day. The deer were in the shade. They were ever so quiet. So disinterested in the people passing by. The God of the open spaces was speaking. We were recalling the Papal Mass of last year. The crowds. The damp squib. How the best of the visit got hijacked. How Croke Park was a special memory and sufficient. My playground in Curraghmore. Phoenix Park – the playground for all of us. How many of us appreciate it? What a treasure.. The heart was awakened.

    On Tuesday, we celebrated the Transfiguration. The ‘Sharings’ were vivid and lively. Jack – the matter- of- fact and very definite football coach (always a rather literal interpreter of biblical stories) spoke. ‘Transfiguration,’ he said. ‘That mountain. The three of them. Christ.’ He softened his very loud and challenging voice. ‘When my first baby was born. I looked. I held. I was overwhelmed. This treasure. Something very deep stirred in me. The gentle voice of God, overcame me. This life was given us to rear. I was on a mountain. I was there.’ Gather our own sacred moments. ‘Where your treasure is; there is your heart.’

    Sickness and Health:
    I visited our sick (Augustinians) on Wednesday. Gabriel Daly is only on the cusp of 92. We had words on Bach. Elgar. Bruckner. We talked of the distant and proximate God. The familiar and the unknown. The awesomeness and the humility in life. The uncertainty of faith. He is a collector of moments. God is a gentle voice in the Bible of nature. He then said: “I love Francis. Only for Francis; I don’t know where I would be.” We went from Gabriel to Tommy. He is totally paralysed. He can move his head. His has two fingers that may work. His face was very young. His voice was very strong. His determination and faith was extraordinary. We were silent in admiration and inspiration. We met Martin. He told me that I had got old and that my beard was very grey. His warm smile, as always, was very special. He feeds through a peg. We saw Jimmy. He has taught Bible studies all his life. He is very sick. But once more his bright face was full of life and laughter. We were moved by all of them. We learned again what real treasure is. And where our hearts should be. The humility/gratitude needed by us, who are healthy. Deep Eucharist has to follow. Stop. Look. Listen.

    School life:
    School life is very busy when nothing is happening. . There is an avalanche of interviews. Unexpectedly, teachers move on. How to staff the school. The care. The love, The affection. The concern. The faith. All displayed by the management, is very moving. Every teacher needs to have a look at what the management has to do while they are on holidays! What a treasure we have in our Schools; in our Principals; in our Staff. The heart. The commitment is inspirational. The role we play as Church, is also quite marvellous. It is a hidden gift. It is a treasure. It is Community. A whispering God does speak in those times. A treasure. Never mind the doomsayers who wish us away. Our hearts are there. It is privileged. God speaks.

    Abraham – the adventurer:
    This weekend tells us to be alert/awake. We are on the adventure of life with Abraham. The journey meanders. The faith is there. We walk gently and slowly to notice the scenery. We give thanks. There is always more. If the eyes of the heart are open – Abraham and ourselves are companions on the journey of life.

    Seamus Ahearne osa
    p.s. I will rest my fingers for a few weeks.

  2. Mary Vallely

    “If the eyes of the heart are open…”
    Giving thanks. Awe and wonder.
    “Where your treasure is there is your heart.”
    Thank you, Seamus. You have lifted my spirits this morning and like Kavanagh, reminded me in the midst of my busyness, that God is indeed in “the bits and pieces of everyday.”
    Buíochas le Dia.
    Rest those fingers. You have given us plenty to mull over with gratitude and a smile. We are not Christ followers if we do not connect heart to heart. Rath Dé ort.