Today’s post is another insightful homily by Fr. Michael Schleupner, based on lessons from Scripture and Mother Teresa. Fr. Michael returns to the Center today to serve as a spiritual director on our August Directed Retreat and we’re thrilled to have him! Please hold our spiritual directors and guests in prayer as they journey through their own faith and trust this week. May this reading and post enrich your trust in God too.
Brothers and sisters: Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God. By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age—and Sarah herself was sterile—for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy. So it was that there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.
All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, of whom it was said,
“Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.” He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol. ~ Heb 11:1-2, 8-19
Trust Not Clarity
Back in the early 1990s, a priest named John Kavanaugh went to Calcutta to work at Mother Teresa’s “house of the dying.” Father Kavanaugh was looking for a clear answer about his future and whether to remain a priest. On his first morning at the “house of the dying,” he met Mother Teresa.
She asked, “What can I do for you?” He asked her to pray for him. Mother Teresa then asked, “What do you want me to pray for?” Father Kavanaugh responded, “Pray that I have clarity.”
Mother Teresa answered, “No!” When Father Kavanaugh asked why, she said that clarity was the last thing he was holding on to, and he needed to let go of it. Father Kavanaugh responded that she always seemed to have clarity. Mother Teresa laughed and said, “I have never had clarity.” “What I’ve always had is trust. So, I will pray that you trust.”
Faith as Trust
Mother Teresa’s insistence on trust is the core of faith and this is what we hear about in today’s second reading.
That long passage makes two points: 1) Faith is trust about what is not present but hoped for. And 2) faith is trust about what is present, but not seen.
1. Trust: Not Present, but Hoped For
So, first, faith is trust in what is not present, but hoped for. The Letter to the Hebrews gives us Abraham as a model. Abraham and Sarah had lived in what is now Iraq, but at God’s calling, they set out for an unknown land. They were also advanced in years, but they awaited the fulfillment of God’s promise of a child. So, they had trust in what was not present, but hoped for.
In our lives, we need this same kind of faith. At the very beginning, a child must leave the safety of the womb to be born into an unknown world. At the very end, we are to let go of this life and move into a new life with God. And in between birth and death, we must leave home for the first day of school or college, or we must go from one job to another, or we must leave behind one habit or mindset and adopt another.
We are constantly called to have this kind of faith: this trust in what is not present, but hoped for.
2. Trust: Present, but Not Seen
And then, faith is trust about what is present, but not seen.
Faith is trust that there is a creator who is the very ground of our being; that this creator, God, is a Father who cares for us and that, in him, we always have a home to go to.
Faith is trust that God became human and that the distance between God and us has been bridged; that Jesus, the Son of God is with us in our joy and suffering, in our peace and upset.
Faith is trust that because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, life is not futile; that everything we do has meaning and value.
Faith is trust that the Holy Spirit is present to us as a community of faith and in the sacraments; that all of us are members of God’s family, one family, the living body of Christ on this earth.
We are constantly called to have this kind of faith also: this trust in what is present but not seen.
So, as Mother Teresa, Saint Teresa of Calcutta says, faith is not so much clarity as it is trust: trust about what is not present but hoped for, and trust about what is present but not seen.
With that understanding, we now once again offer our Profession of Faith.
~Fr. Michael Schleupner