Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday word, 21 Feb 2009

Sixth Saturday of the Year (21 Feb 2009)
Hb 11. 1-7; Ps 145; Mk 9. 2-13
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Faith Offers Ourselves

For two weeks every other year, the church offers for our consideration at weekday masses the creation’s beginning and its re-beginning with Noah. Today the lectionary closes this consideration by pointing us toward faith, with a snippet taken from the Letter to the Hebrews: the beginning of the roll call of the ancients, who lived from faith. This roll call of the ancients helps us appreciate the account Genesis offers of Adam to Noah. Let me suggest two points.

First, we are quick to fashion faith as something mental, but it is much greater than a thought or just a way of thinking. Translators do want to broaden faith as something greater, and yet a favored translation of the word describing faith is assurance. As we heard, the New American Bible uses realization. We don’t cause this realization, as if we were to think hard enough. That returns us to a mental quality of faith. We don’t realize it.

A catechism statement helps us here: “Faith is a gift of God.”/1/ In the Letter to the Hebrews God’s gift registers repeatedly as God attests; God affirms; God certifies/2/: the ancients were well attested. When the bible uses the passive voice, and when a passage cannot supply an agent, as in the ancients were well attested, God is the agent. God certified the ancients because they lived from their faith.

For us and all people of faith that means that faith shapes how we understand: created things have their origin in something greater than what our senses perceive. Even more surprising, we give our loyalty to what our senses cannot grasp! God certifies us and all who live from this loyalty to God.

This isn’t only past. It’s present and future! God certified the ancients; God certified Jesus as the long awaited one: This is my beloved Son. Listen to him. God certifies us today and will certify us--and generation after generation of others--each moment we live from faith.

God creates at each moment. Faith is the gift God gives us to respond, not merely mentally, but with our loyalty. God rewards this loyalty of ours, even if we may not perceive it.

1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #153 (original emphasis).
2. The Letter to the Hebrews used the Greek word for “to witness,” from which we get the word martyr: 2.4; 7.17; 10.15; 11.2, 4, 5 (in this selection).
Wiki-image of The Ancient of Days by William Blake is in the public domain.

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