Sunday, Aug. 11, is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle 1).
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’s readings remind us of our summer vacation.
The readings are about faith, and so they are appropriate soon after Pope Francis’ encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), was promulgated. But they also come at the end of summer, and since they compare faith to a journey — and preparing for a journeying person’s return — it is hard not to make the connection.
1. Faith is a journey into the unknown, trusting the One who knows.
The second reading today is from the Letter to the Hebrews. It describes Abraham’s journey: “He went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith, he sojourned in the Promised Land as in a foreign country.”
We left for vacation on the evening of the Fourth of July, heading west across Kansas as fireworks lit up the horizon on either side of the interstate.
We knew our ultimate destination was California — but in between the destination and our departure was a lot of unknown territory.
In his encyclical, Pope Francis presents faith as a journey with much unknown — a journey that heads toward a destination but ultimately must trust in God for a positive outcome. We are in God’s hands, headed where he directs us.
2. Faith expands our world and calls us to courage.
Our first reading today, from the Book of Wisdom, speaks of the bravery we need for faith. “The night of the Passover was known beforehand to our fathers, that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage.”
They were headed to places they had never seen, destined to discover virtues they had never used before.
In our van, our children slept and woke up on the Fifth of July farther west than they had ever been. They would soon see amazing things: Utah’s San Rafael Pass, California’s sand dunes and the Pacific Ocean.
That’s what vacations do: They change our understanding of the world.
So does faith. As Pope Francis puts it:
“Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted. Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives it a firm hope which will not disappoint. … It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love” (53).
3. Faith is about the preparations we make for the One returning.
Today’s Gospel focuses on the returning aspect of faith. “Light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,” says Jesus, “ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.”
Because of their work schedules, Tom and our eldest daughter headed home earlier than the rest of the family. That meant they needed to prepare for the family’s return — housework, yard work and shopping, etc.
In faith, we must live for Christ as we await him.
“Faith is not only presented as a journey,” says Pope Francis, “but also as a process of building, the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another” (50).
Without faith, there is nothing to be ready for — no one is coming; no one will call us to account for what we have done.
But if Jesus is coming — and he is — then we need to make sure we are doing things for him and living the way he wants us to as we await his return.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.