Aug. 8 is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle II).
Two friends of St. Francis celebrate their feast days this week.
Aug. 8 is the feast of St. Dominic, who founded the Dominicans. He was known for his oratory skills; Francis was known for his way of life. Perhaps their talents were complementary, because they are said to have been close friends.
St. Clare’s feast is Aug. 11 in Assisi. Her friendship with Francis is the reason she has become the patroness of television: She spoke to him in a vision when he was far away.
Toy Story 3 hit theaters this summer. Along with Toy Story 2, it gives an Aristotelian lesson about friendship.
Toy Story 2 is about choosing true friendship over what Aristotle would call “friendship for utility.” Woody is given the best friendship-for-utility arrangement imaginable. He is the featured attraction of a famous Old West “roundup” gang. The gang needs him in order to get fame and adulation in a museum. He must decide whether being true friends with one person is better than being useful to a few and liked by many. His answer transforms his own life and his new gang’s.
Toy Story 3 is about what Aristotle would call “friendship for pleasure” vs. true friendship. What do you do when a friendship isn’t fun anymore — when you’re a toy and playtime is over for good? Woody’s dilemma is between a pleasure palace for toys or “being there” for an absent friend. His choice leads to one of the most affecting images of friends finding solace in each other in an apparently hopeless situation.
Wisdom 18:6-9; Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-22; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 or 11:1-2, 8-12; Luke 12:32-48 or 12:35-40
Today, the first reading and the Gospel create a paradox that is only resolved by the second reading.
In the first reading, the Scripture makes the point that it was to the advantage of the Israelites that they knew when the Passover was coming: Knowing the day and hour gave them the certainty they needed to have courage and do what was right.
In the Gospel, Jesus says that we need to have special courage because we don’t know the day and hour he is coming. It’s this not knowing, he seems to say, that gives us the impetus to get our act together on a more permanent basis.
Call them “pedagogies of repentance.” One says that when you know the judge is coming on Aug. 17, you are strongly motivated to get your papers in order by Aug. 17 — and might not otherwise. The other says that when the judge performs spot checks at random intervals, you’re highly motivated to be ready all the time.
So: Which is better?
St. Paul’s letter might give a “pedagogy of repentance” that accounts for both.
In today’s reading, he doesn’t point to punishment; he points to faith: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen,” he writes. He recounts Abraham’s obedience in faith as he “sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country.” It was faith that gave him “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.” In other words, faith gave him peace in the trials of this life and a glorious eternal life, which for him was represented by many descendants.
This teaches us two lessons. First, it answers the “date certain” vs. “spot check” question by saying faith makes the dilemma irrelevant: The promise that Christ will come back someday is as solid as giving a date.
But second, it reminds us that there are dire consequences from ignoring the message. Real and substantial benefits come now and hereafter to those who, by faith, see God’s presence in their lives today — and don’t only dread his future presence.
We will need to face a reckoning one day, and that’s one reason to do the right thing. But an even better reason is because we know who God is, and we know that tapping into his grace now will bless us today — and forever.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas, where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.