What awaits us in our future?
The Scripture readings for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Wisdom 18:6-9; Hebrews 11:1-2,8; Luke 12:32-48) put that question to us. What does the future hold in store for us? What awaits us when we die? Is what is awaiting us when we die determined by what we did or didn’t do in this life? These are the big questions we face today and in all of the days of our lives.
Jesus talked with His disciples (and we are His disciples) about the future, telling them they were to face it not with fear but with hope and in a spirit of positive expectancy. He spoke to them in terms of making investments, investments in their future. “Sell what you have,” He told them, and buy into the sort of retirement plan I am offering you, a never-failing treasure with my Father and with me in heaven. “Wherever your treasure lies,” Jesus told us, “there your heart will be.” Stated the other way around he’s telling us: “Wherever your heart is, there will your treasure be found.”
But how can we live in a world and with a future that is not yet? Only by living it in faith. St. Paul tells us “Faith is the confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.” And it is counter-cultural to live that way. The secularists tell us not to have faith in anything, simply to accept what you can touch, taste, smell, measure and control. Suspend your beliefs, the world tells us, and don’t accept anything else. Religion wars against science.
In the Culture Wars we now face, the secularists have managed to present people of faith as foolish and even dangerous. Religion, they claim, engenders war, is divisive, and is harmful to human progress. People of belief and who are against abortion are, the secularists claim, attacking women. Those who favor abortion regard babies in the womb as merely a part of a woman’s body and totally under the control of women. Ironically, abortionists would have us overlook scientific facts. The fact is that a fetus has its own DNA coding, not the woman. It has its own blood type, not the woman’s. If protected and nurtured, the human life of a fetus will eventually grow to be eighty or ninety years old. Those are not statements of faith. Those are scientific facts, facts that abortionists would have us overlook.
But can anyone really live without any faith? Can atheists and secularists really live that way? Well . . . no! People with no religion are in fact forced to live by faith. They cannot claim they have no need of faith. You cannot get married and not live in faith. You cannot buy a computer in a store and not have faith in what you’ve bought. You cannot step onto an airplane and not have faith, faith in the engineers who designed it, faith in the ground crews who perform maintenance on it, and faith in the pilot and co-pilot who fly under the direction of the ground controllers who in their responsibilities control the paths of the planes placed in their care. You can’t drive on our highways without having faith in the competence of the drivers of those vehicles you will either meet or pass. You can’t buy groceries without having faith in those who both produced the food and those who have marketed it for you.
Faith is not something that belongs only to religion, it belongs to everyday living. Each and every day we take risks and act on probabilities, hardly ever on certainties. We take risks in depending upon the decisions of others, never knowing with certainty what the outcomes will be. Even scientists operate on theories, even the Theory of Evolution. Rarely does science give us proofs, proofs that last anyway.
Our greatest leaders have presented us with leadership based on faith. It was faith that motivated George Washington and the founders of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence is a document based on faith. Abraham Lincoln led us through one of the darkest nights in our nation’s history basing his vision solely on faith. If you read writings of Abraham Lincoln, you will find yourself reading some of the most faith-filled thoughts you will ever encounter. It was Lincoln who said to the American people: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty.”
What I am saying is that to live out life on this tiny little speck in the cosmos, this little blue dot in the Milky Way, is to live in faith in a wondrous adventure. To graduate from school having chosen a career and to enter into it with all your heart and all your soul is one of life’s greater acts of faith. To get married and have children is a profound act of faith. To enter each day that God gives us with hope and expectancy that we will do good and make the world a little bit better for those around us is a tremendous act of faith. And to die, going forth from this life without knowing exactly where we are going except into the hands of God, is our ultimate act of faith. Everywhere throughout life people live in the confident assurance that what they hope for will one day come to be. Every day we live with convictions about things that are not yet seen.
To be realistic, however, we must pay attention to the fact that a good deal of our recent history attacks our faith. We have been betrayed and betrayed often by people in our lives, all of which erodes our basic need to believe in others. Life is unfair and bad things do happen to good people. And yes, many people are unreliable. But, for all that is wrong in life, in our world and in others, we cannot afford to give up, stop believing, and lose faith. Jesus knew that back then and He knows that right how, which is why Christ presents Himself to us. He comes to us, after all, in faith, placing Himself in Holy Communion in our hands with the belief in His heart that we accept Him in love and with a firm purpose to live with Him as He would have us live.
Yes, this world belongs to God. And yes, God has given us the dignity and the responsibility of working with Him to bring the world to completion, to wholeness and to that unity in which He made it to exist, and us in it, in the first place. For God, you see, has made a tremendous act of faith in you. God believes in you enough to give you the freedom to choose His love, the freedom to choose to accomplish His work, the freedom to do good. For God, you see, made us to love Him and to live with His faith in us.
How comforting it is to know that others have faith in us. How tremendously comforting it is to know that God Himself trusts us, has high hopes for us, and believes in us. What a fantastic honor it is to realize that when we receive Holy Communion, God our Father has believed in us enough to put His only begotten Son into our hands. Faith is forever an adventure in living, an adventure in which God Himself lives and wants to share with us.