Persevering in Faith

Reflection on “Persevering in Faith” based on the Gospel of Luke 12:49-53 and Letter to the Hebrews 12:1-4

We are now beginning to hear more and more about the upcoming Summer Olympics.

We know for a fact that the best athletes in the world, who personify perfection, made a lot of sacrifices to be what they are. They lived a very disciplined life, they gave up certain pleasures. For many months and years, they made up the time to exercise and practice because that is how badly they want to win the gold medal…it is pretty much their life.

On the faith note: The question to us is: Who wants to get to heaven? Similarly, how much or how badly do you really want to go to heaven? What are you doing about it?

Remember: We are just pilgrims in this journey of life, just passing through – because our true home is in heaven.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews used athletic analogies such as: “Life of faith is a race.” … “Let us persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

What we heard from our second reading from the letter to the Hebrews is not so much a call to believe or to enter the faith. We are already believers but the call is a call to remain in the faith. The challenge is to endure in the way of faith. The letter was addressed to the Christians who were in danger of falling behind or dropping out of the race… so to speak.

To be able to continue in the race towards the finish line, we need to be aware of the unnecessary weights or baggages we have been carrying that hold us back. We need to learn to travel lightly in this journey of life.

It’s interesting, and sadly ironic, that so many in our society, with all due respect, are obsessed with losing weight while so much of the world exist on the edge of starvation.

Carrying too much weight can be dangerous. Physical concerns aside, similarly, carrying too many things in our life can keep us from getting to our destination.

Think about the weight of our possessions. It is NOT that possessions or money themselves are evil, but that they can become a deadly weight. The love of money is the root of all evil. (1 Timothy 6:10)

We need to realize how many of our daily decisions are based on money matters, financial concerns, consumerism and owning things.

Secondly – Consider the weight of our responsibilities. It is good to be responsible. But, if we are not careful, we can take on so many responsibilities, all representing worthy efforts, that we don’t have time for the most important things. That is why Jesus told Martha when she complained about her sister Mary sitting and listening to Jesus: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Pope Francis said: If we do not pray, we will not know the most important thing of all: God’s will for us. And for all our activities, our busy-ness, without prayer, we will accomplish very little.

Thirdly, how about being so weighted down with worry that we cannot move; that we are paralyzed. Some worry is natural and appropriate. But to worry about everything, or to worry excessively over things over which we have no control, is wasted energy, wasted time, and wasted living. It may also be a sign of lack of faith. Faith is an invitation to trust God in all things.

As someone has said: “Worrying does not take tomorrow’s troubles; worrying takes away today’s joy and peace.”

The goal of living in God’s presence on earth as it is in heaven, demands sacrifice and much discipline… just as what athletes go through – that is how they make it look so easy – after much training to prepare… and overcoming obstacles and challenges and staying focused on the goal.

From our first reading, the prophet Jeremiah was a royal prophet at the Kings court but he refused to tell the king what the king and the people wanted to hear. And so, because Jeremiah stood for the truth, he was berated and mocked… was thrown into a cistern.

Our faith tells us that it is truly difficult, to say the least, to stand for what it right and true. It is difficult to stand for the Lord because we will be persecuted and mocked. We live in a very secular and even atheistic society. Yet, we have to meet the challenges of Christian life, and we have to overcome all the obstacles to the truth that society put in our way.

That is what Jesus did. He stood for the truth and was put to death. But he was not going to compromise the Word of the Father. If this meant denouncing the leaders of the Temple, he would do so. If this meant criticizing even his closest followers, he we do so. If this meant journeying to Jerusalem where he knew he would be killed, he would do so.

It is in this context – that we can understand the difficult gospel for this Sunday; the division, the conflict, even among family members, predicted when Christians accept and embrace the challenges of Christian life. The strife and the sword that the Lord’s presence will instill in the world; again even in the family.

“From now on a household will be divided,
a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law”

Meaning – To give you a practical example –
Parents will be criticized for setting moral standards within their homes. Their own children will tell them that they need to “get real”; “everyone’s doing it; it is the twenty-first century…We are in America, first world country…” Therefore, children demand and expect as their right – that they should be allowed to do what everyone else is doing; which – in reality – is just contemporary immorality… Parents have to put up a terrible struggle to stand for what is right and true in their own homes, with their own children.

When division comes – how will you respond? … with anger, much arguments and condemnation; or with compassion, prayers and understanding?

The ultimate goal of the parents for their children is for their children to go to heaven.

My brothers and sisters, the readings today tell us: Trust in God. You do not struggle alone.

We heard from our second reading: “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…
Meaning – We are surrounded by the saints of the past and saints of our time in a unique way. It is a figure of speech – imagine we are running towards the finish line and the saints are cheering us on to the same victory in the life of faith that they obtained. We are to be inspired by the godly examples these saints set during their lives. Actually – they are not just spectators to the race we are running… They help us and intercede for us.

We need to keep in mind also that – As we race towards the finish line, so to speak… The Lord is not just a spectator or a coach at the sideline or at the ringside – as in boxing. The Lord is with us inside the ring, in the battle. We need to keep in mind what the Lord Jesus said (Gospel of Matthew): “And know that I am with you always until the end of time.”

At the end of our life, let us hope and pray that we can say what St. Paul told Timothy (2 Timothy 4:7) – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness – which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

God bless.

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Lk 12:49-53; Hebrews 12:1-4