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By the Rev. Joseph Havrilka
Mother of Dolors Catholic Church
Chapter 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews, beginning at the first verse, says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Should we read this only as a dogma or the framework for a belief system? Yes and no.
St. Paul’s teaching on faith (and grace) is at the very core of our lives as followers of Christ. I believe that he is also speaking about a lifestyle here. The lives of people of faith should reflect their whole system of values. That is why what goes on within our church walls cannot be disconnected from the way we live at home, work, school or on the street.
The Hebrews were floundering in the faith. They had lost their initial fervor. They faced persecution and bigotry. Following Jesus Christ had become all too much for them. They saw their neighbors, and wondered why they had given up the “pleasures” of their former pagan lifestyle.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should, because each generation of Christians has experienced these same challenges to some degree. The Hebrews were reminded that their ancestors died in faith, even though they had not seen the “promised land.”
Verses 13 and 14 say, “All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance, they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.”
This, too, is our quest. We are only pilgrims on this earth, seeking the promised homeland of heaven.
We are called to believe – not to give up or give in. It is easy to choose actions and behaviors that do not reflect our faith, and then claim that Jesus is really not concerned with what we have done.
When we do this, we are denying that we have a personal relationship with him. Or perhaps we don’t go to that extreme; perhaps we “water down” our relationship with Jesus by forming a savior who turns a blind eye to our struggles, our temptations, our daily lives. Or perhaps we create a Savior who would allow us to “make a little room” for our immoral actions. In doing so, we refuse to recognize that those same actions shield us from loving him and becoming all that he is calling us to be.
If we stop to think about it, people are condemned to hell largely because they condemn themselves to hell! They fail to see any Jesus other than some “Barney figure"; something they have concocted in their minds. All they want to hear is, “I love you…you love me…” They don’t see that this can drive a wedge between the faith they profess and they lives they lead.
Do you want to know a secret? We all do this from time to time. It’s called human weakness. This is why our faith is such a precious treasure. Our savior is not a purple dinosaur; he does not exist at our whim. He is a real spiritual brother who has given us life, faith and grace through the gift of his suffering, death and resurrection.
May we, like our ancestors in faith and like the Hebrews, strive to accept God’s grace through faith.
May we realize that we are, indeed, “strangers and foreigners on the earth,” who seek a homeland “whose architect and maker is God.”