Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
“At what point did Abraham become a man of faith; before He heard from God or after His encounter with God?” To answer this question adequately, it might be useful to take a brief look at Abraham’s family background.
Terah was Abraham’s father with his two brothers, Nahor and Haran, Lot’s father, who died before his father, Terah. The Book of Genesis (11:13) tells us that Terah took his family from the Ur of the Chaldeans meaning to go to the land of Canaan, but when they came to Harran, they settled there.
We do not know why Terah left Ur with his family heading to Canaan and why he decided to stop and settle at Harran, where he died after living for 205 years. A grasp of these facts would help us to understand the significance of the faith of Abraham and his walk with God, as the Second Reading, today (Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-12) tells us.
The Book of Genesis (12:1ff) tells us about the call of Abraham (then known as Abram). God asked him to leave his people and father’s household to the land He would show him. Later, we shall discover that this unknown land is Canaan (the promised land), where his father was moving them before he decided to stop and settle at Harran.
We can say that Abraham became a generational continuation of God’s invitation that started with his father, Terah. What made Terah stop at Harran instead of continuing to Canaan could be a relapse in his faith which could be why you do not complete anything you start. Abraham was already a man of faith before God spoke to him. So, his encounter with God only tried, refined, and justified his faith.
Often, when we talk about faith, many people see it as something that is very far-fetched. Contrary to that idea, faith is a divine facility within us; it is part of God’s imprint on us, alongside hope and love. So, we all have faith; the problem is not having faith; it is about activating and using it at the needful moments in our lives. Faith needs to be built.
Abraham responded to God’s invitation by faith already in him. It takes faith to leave everything behind and follow God’s instructions without having the full details (Genesis 12:4).
The Second Reading of this Sunday (Hebrews11:1-2, 8-12) gives us a classical definition of faith as “the realization of what is hoped for, and evidence of things not seen.” A closer look at this definition demonstrates that faith resides within us, but our actions make it evident. Abraham showed his faith by his obedience.
So, in addition to the definition we have, we can say that faith is an act of obedience to God’s words even when they do not make sense to us by our human standards.
Building our Faith: The Abrahamic Way
Faith as a supernatural deposit in us requires some virtuous dispositions to become operational.
Obedience: Obedience is very important in our relationship with God. Recall that disobedience was the first sin of humankind (Genesis 3:11). Obedience is highly required in our relationship with God, and it precedes blessings.
The oracle of Isaiah (1:19) says, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land.” During his orientation to step into leadership after Moses, God told Joshua to be careful to obey all the laws of Moses and that he would be successful wherever he went. (Joshua 1:7). You cannot claim to be faithful when you are disobedient!
Courage: Faith requires courage which we can define as the spiritual brevity or boldness to carry out certain actions despite apparent limitations. It takes courage to be obedient. During Joshua’s divine orientation program, God told him several times to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6,7, &9). Courage manifests faith, so faith without courage is false.
Patience: Patience is the ability to endure and wait, especially in unsettling circumstances. St. Pauls tells the Romans (12:12), “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” It is impossible to operate with the facility of faith without the virtue of patience.
One common denominator with all who walked with God in the scriptures is that they were all men and women of faith because they had the virtue of patience. We notice this in the story of Abraham, who waited on the Lord for more than two decades before the birth of the son of promise, Isaac. The Book of Psalms (37:7) tells us to be patient and wait for the Lord to act. The oracle of Isaiah (40:31) says that those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.
Moving Forward with Faith
The Gospel Reading (Luke 12:32-48) tells us that reward will come to the servant who the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Vigilance indicates faith fanned by obedience, courage, and patience. Another designation of that servant is “faithful servant.”
Today, we are challenging ourselves to build our faith after the manner of Abraham by intensifying unshakeable obedience, courage, and patience. Faith is not reducible to our mere church attendance. It is possible to come to Church and still be miles away from God based on our faith growth and manifestation. Remember that faith does not make things easy; it makes all things possible!
God bless you.