The Scriptures, both Old Testament and New, set before us heroes of faith, perfect role models for the Year of Faith. The first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, sets before us the faith of a captive people during the darkest moments of their enslavement in Egypt. The Egyptian Pharaoh had steadfastly refused to hear Moses’s repeated plea that the people be set free to journey to their Promised Land. On the night of the Passover, despite the gathering storm, an enslaved people committed themselves to the promise that God would free his people. They set out on a journey fraught with danger, a journey during which “the saints would share the same blessing and dangers alike”.
Like the Israelites in Egypt, we live out our faith in a world whose values are frequently hostile to those of the Gospel. The story of the Exodus is that of a people who refused to be enslaved by the world in which they lived. They preferred to entrust themselves to God, to believe at a time when such faith threatened their very existence. In different ways our faith faces the decision that they had faced. Do we adapt our lives to the world in which we live, or do we choose to journey into the salvation that faith promises?
The Letter to the Hebrews, seeking to strengthen the faith of those baptised from a Jewish background, turned to Abraham’s exemplary faith. “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going.”
The emphasis was on the willingness of Abraham’s faith to abandon the assurance of the present moment and to follow God’s call wherever it might lead. Of its very nature faith entrusts its vulnerability to God, for “only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that at present remain unseen. It was for this faith that our ancestors were commended.”
Love is at the heart of faith, enabling us to entrust ourselves to the vulnerability that stands between promise and fulfilment. Thus Abraham was willing to depart for a land yet to be identified and, having arrived in that land, to live as stranger. “All these died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them, recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth.”
In the fullness of Christ we also are on a journey, a journey that puts us between the promise that we shall be completely one with the Father and the Son, and the fulfilment of that promise. Love alone enables us to accept the vulnerability that stands between the promise and its fulfilment.
Jesus reinforced the promise at the beginning to today’s Gospel. “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.”
Jesus insisted that we, and his disciples, set out on a journey that abandons the security of the present moment and entrusts itself completely to his promise. “Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that will not wear out, treasure that will not fail you. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If we are to be possessed by God’s promise, rather than by what we have, we are called to watchfulness. “Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.”
God-given love safeguards the gap between the promise and its fulfilment.