Sunday, Aug. 11, is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). Mass readings: Wisdom 18:6-9; Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-22; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Luke 12:32-48.
The first reading from the Book of Wisdom tells us of the faith of the enslaved Israelites who, when promised relief from the persecution of the Egyptians, believed that the Lord would protect them. So they prepared for the Passover and were graced by God.
In the Psalm for today, this special grace given to the people of Israel is commemorated in song. “Our soul waits for the Lord,” the Psalmist writes, “who is our help and our shield.” Despite the fact that the People of God did suffer turmoil — “famine” is mentioned explicitly — the people trust that the Lord will “deliver them from death.” The gaze of God is “upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness.”
So it is that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” The author goes on to describe the faith of the people of Israel over time, a faith founded on the fidelity of Abraham. The old man Abraham was “himself as good as dead,” we read, and Sarah was already too advanced in age to have a child. Yet Abraham was promised descendants more numerous than the stars. Though he never witnessed the fruition of this promise, his hope was founded on that promise and was realized in faith, even to the point of offering up his son, Isaac.
The readings then lead us to Jesus, a new Isaac, and to St. Luke’s Gospel, where we learn that we ought to have faith in the love of the Father for us. “Do not be afraid,” Our Lord urges. Trust, “sell your belongings and give alms.” We shall be provided for, he assures us. These sayings can be difficult to hear, since we know there is great suffering in this world despite our fidelity.
How many of us have known faithful Christians and dedicated servants of the Church who have suffered great pain and endured many tests?
Understanding this tension between the promise and suffering, Our Lord encourages us to be prepared like servants waiting in the night for “their master’s return from a wedding.” Living in the midst of our suffering is very much like experiencing the dark night in which the servant waits. We feel abandoned and alone, isolated and unsure when or whether our suffering will end or our Master will return.
Therefore, we are encouraged by Christ to be faithful, to “light our lamps” and pray for the faith of Abraham, who trusted. We must trust that the Master’s very presence can give us solace and protection. We must allow our hope for life with the Lord to become rooted in faith: that we shall persevere and be blessed by God.
In the longer version of today’s Gospel, Our Lord answers St. Peter by saying that to those to whom much has been given, “much will be required.” We Christians have been given much. We have been given a Father in heaven who has been faithful to his people from the beginning. Let us all respond, then, in faithful service to him, especially in the midst of our darkest hour.
Deacon Omar Gutierrez is president and co-founder of the