August 7, 2016 — Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
One might say that all Holy Scripture has to do with faith and trust. In truth everything we do and everything we practice in living our lives should reflect our faith and our trust in the Lord. Without those two elements (faith and trust) we could not be the kind of disciples Jesus has asked us to be. To be sure we would not be able to be the kinds of good stewards He expects.
The First Reading comes from the Book of Wisdom. At one time this Book was called the Wisdom of Solomon as it is to him that it is attributed. There are two basic parts to the Book: the first nine chapters deal with the nature of wisdom and the final ten chapters address the history of wisdom. From both perspectives seeking wisdom is beneficial, and even necessary. Wisdom should lead one to the conclusion that God is God and God is in control. As a result it is natural and necessary to put our faith in God and to trust Him implicitly. Wisdom exhorts us to have “courage,” the kind of spirit that allows us to do the Lord’s bidding knowing that He is with us and He will help us.
In the Letter to the Hebrews, our Second Reading, the author opens his message by saying, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” This is in practicality a definition of faith. Written in Greek, the Greek word that we translate as “realization” can also be translated as “substance.” The implication of that is that substance is something we can see and touch in the physical world; however, in this instance when applied to faith, it is better found in the spiritual world. Faith is needed for what we cannot see and what we cannot touch.
The writer goes on to cite instances of faith through Biblical history. Sometimes we rely too much on our intellect, but the weakness of that is that it is too readily influenced by that physical, that secular world. It is faith that allows us to trust in God; it is faith that allows us to rely on God; it is faith that assures us of the promises of God. It is faith that allows us to overcome the doubts with which we may be plagued.
Pointing to Abraham as a prime example, the writer of this Letter explains that for Abraham his faith literally permitted him to place total trust in God. This is one of those ongoing challenges we have in living our own lives, in living them in the way that the Lord expects. How often in the recesses of our mind do we answer challenging questions with the thought: “If I just knew for sure?” Holy Scripture tells us to be “sure,” and with that certainty we can take the kinds of risks a disciple, a steward, must take.
The Gospel Reading from Luke gives us one of those most famous stewardship references when the Lord proclaims, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” We must look at this somewhat in context. The Gospel Reading is Jesus’ response to a man who asked the Lord to settle a dispute between him and his brother. What was the dispute about? Earthly treasures, of course. Faith and trust mean that we understand that true treasures are found in heaven, not on earth in this life. Jesus always maintains that our thoughts and our focus should be on heaven. That does not mean we ignore what we experience and what we see here — that physical world if you will, but we must place our faith and trust in the spiritual world to which the Lord refers.
These are not easy concepts and Jesus knew that. By the same token these are not “suggestions” from the Lord. They are commands. That is why when St. Peter asks if Jesus’ lesson is for him and the other followers, Jesus assures him that He is speaking to all of us, that all of us are expected to be faithful and trusting servants. We must be faithful and wise stewards.