The Letter to the Romans continues to focus our attention on Abraham, our Father in faith. Picking up where he left off yesterday, St. Paul once again reminds us that Abraham’s justification could not come through the Law because the Law came after Abraham. Abraham, the Torah tells us, was justified by faith before the Law existed.
The prophet Isaiah wrote about faith when trying to comfort the exiles of Babylon. Using Abraham and Sarah as examples, Isaiah writes to Israel languishing in slavery once again and points them to the day when they will be free:
Listen to me, you who pursue justice,
who seek the LORD;
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
to the quarry from which you were taken;
Look to Abraham, your father,
and to Sarah, who gave you birth;
Though he was but one when I called him,
I blessed him and made him many.
Yes, the LORD shall comfort Zion,
shall comfort all her ruins;
Her wilderness he shall make like Eden,
her wasteland like the garden of the LORD;
joy and gladness shall be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of song. (Isaiah 51:1-3)
Abraham believed God when he was told that he would be the father of many nations even though he and Sarah were well beyond the age of childbearing. Such faith in God’s promise might be considered ridiculous by some, even hopeless. However, putting faith in things that are not ridiculous or hopeless doesn’t really prove anything. It is only when we are confronted with the ridiculous that our faith is really tested. Thus it is that every time the Scriptures place a hopeless situation before us, the sacred writers remind us of the hopelessness Abraham and Sarah.
Think of all the things that we take on faith that the world considers ridiculous – the virgin birth of Jesus, the message that roused Joseph to save his family from the terror of Herod, the curing of a man born blind, the healing of a man who was crippled, changing water into wine, or walking on water. Of course, we cannot forget the most ridiculous of them all – the resurrection from the dead after days in the tomb. Yes, the world would see faith in such things are ridiculous. However, unless we can believe in the ridiculous and hopeless, we cannot really say we have a strong faith.
It is this kind of faith that saves. It is this kind of faith that shines a beacon of hope into the world. It is this kind of faith that brought about the charity of Jesus’ passion and death. It is this kind of faith that makes it possible for us to forgive one another and to put the needs of others before our own. It is also this kind of faith that prompts us to believe that simple bread and wine can be transformed into the body and blood of Christ, the faith that brings us here today.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator