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3/17/19 Second Sunday of Lent - Fr. Reggie

Sight is a great gift. And its loss is frightening. Sometimes there’s a partial loss of vision, like when we misplace our glasses or a contact lens falls out. That’s bad enough. 

But what if we couldn’t see what someone else tells us is there?

And what if someone made us a promise that we couldn’t see? This is what God does with Abram in the first reading today. Abram and his wife Sarai are childless. But they long for a son to carry on the family name. God takes Abram outside and says something strange. “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so shall your descendants be.” That’s an amazing promise. Have you ever tried to count the stars in the night sky? They’re countless. But God promises Abram that his descendants will be that numerous.

However there’s more. If God had taken Abram outside at night and told him to count the stars it would be amazing enough. But it seems that God took him outside during the day! Later on in the first reading it says that when the sun had set and it was dark, the Lord made a covenant with Abram. So it was still daylight when God told Abram to count the stars.

This required a leap of faith for Abram. So this is why the reading says that a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped Abram before the sun had set. It’s because God asked him to believe without seeing. He asked “Do you believe in me and in my promise even though you don’t see the stars?” Abram believed, and several chapters later he has a son, Isaac. And Abram is now known to us as Abraham, which means “Father of a multitude.”

In our own lives, God will ask us the same question. There are times when we can’t see the star of God’s promise, but he asks us to believe: not in an idea, but in a person, in him. He asks us to entrust ourselves to Him. So we can say, along with St Paul, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7). This is not blindness; it’s actively entrusting our lives to the God who loves us. 

Sometimes we can imagine that the saints had it easy. We can suppose that faith in God must be more difficult for us than it was for them.

St Therese of Lisieux teaches us something different. Her whole life was filled with faith. Her parents taught her to pray at an early age, and they used to attend Mass often. She knew from early childhood that she wanted to be a nun. In her autobiography Story of a Soul she gives beautiful descriptions of how real God was for her.

But in Holy Week of 1896, when she was 23 years old, she entered into a darkness that threatened to shake everything apart. She learned that she had tuberculosis, which at the time was incurable. But that paled in comparison to the dark night of faith which descended on her. She could not feel the presence of God. Her mind was battered by constant doubts. “Is heaven real? What comes after this life? Is it just nothingness?

She was tempted to doubt Christ’s promise that we will one day see him face to face. Like Abram, she could not see the stars. But, like Abram, she continued to believe, not in an idea but in a person.

She made little acts of faith hundreds of times a day, saying “Jesus, I believe in you.”

And her last words, on September 30, 1897, were “My God, I love you!” She kept the faith. She believed, and faith had the last word.  

Fear cripples us. In the gospels Christ often repeats the words “Do not be afraid.” There must be a reason for this. It’s because when we put our faith in God, we’re giving up control. Abraham gave up control. He allowed God to direct his life, and that brought peace.

How do we give our lives over to God? Here’s one simple way. Pray Psalm 23. A lot of us are familiar with it. It’s one of the shorter psalms, and one of the most famous. It’s a psalm that Jesus probably prayed often.

It goes like this. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Beside still waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. You set a table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Indeed, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. 

As we continue the Mass let’s remember these words. And at the moment of consecration, when I hold up the Body and Blood of Christ, let’s entrust our lives to Christ, and let’s commit ourselves to walk with him each day of our lives. 

 

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