Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Into the Maelstrom

Faith opens the way before us and accompanies our steps through time. Hence, if we want to understand what faith is, we need to follow the route it has taken, the path trodden by believers, as witnessed first in the Old Testament. Here a unique place belongs to Abraham, our father in faith. Something disturbing takes place in his life: God speaks to him; he reveals himself as a God who speaks and calls his name. Faith is linked to hearing.

Abraham does not see God, but hears his voice. Faith thus takes on a personal aspect. God is not the god of a particular place, or a deity linked to specific sacred time, but the God of a person, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, capable of interacting with man and establishing a covenant with him. Faith is our response to a word which engages us personally, to a "Thou" who calls us by name.

The word spoken to Abraham contains both a call and a promise. First, it is a call to leave his own land, a summons to a new life, the beginning of an exodus which points him towards an unforeseen future. The sight which faith would give to Abraham would always be linked to the need to take this step forward: faith "sees" to the extent that it journeys, to the extent that it chooses to enter into the horizons opened up by God’s word. This word also contains a promise: Your descendants will be great in number, you will be the father of a great nation (cf. Gen 13:16; 15:5; 22:17).

As a response to a word which preceded it, Abraham’s faith would always be an act of remembrance. Yet this remembrance is not fixed on past events but, as the memory of a promise, it becomes capable of opening up the future, shedding light on the path to be taken. We see how faith, as remembrance of the future, memoria futuri, is thus closely bound up with hope.
Lumen Fidei 8-9

Reflection – Tuesdays With Francis continues, this time coinciding with the great feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. There is actually a great connection between this event in the life of the Lord and his disciples and the presentation of faith given in LF 8-9.

Abraham is called by the voice of God onto a journey, a pilgrimage. The disciples, too, are called by the Lord up the mountain, and down it, and while on the mountain the great and definitive word of God is given: this is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am pleased: listen to Him.

Abraham leaves everything to go to this land God has promised Him. The disciples have already left everything to follow Jesus, but this experience on the mountain confirms this call and strengthens it. They will shortly see what Abraham was never given to see: Jesus the Lord stripped and bound, beaten and crucified, and will know the crushing humiliation of their own failure to stay with Him in this. They need this extra revelation of glory to come through that crucible of suffering and betrayal and come out the other side of it with faith strengthened and renewed.

It is all about an encounter that establishes our life on a new course, into a new future. Faith orders us towards the future through an encounter with God who calls us to arise and go, to leave where we are and walk with confidence to where he is leading us.

Of course this leaving and going does not mean a constant restless search for something new or an abandoning of one’s commitments, nor does it mean a perpetual re-invention of our faith according to the fashionable ideas of the day. It is much deeper, much more real, much more confronting and challenging, really. Any fool can pull up stakes and move to a new city, a new job, a new marriage, a new religion.

What God is calling us to is an ever deeper and more generous gift of love, an ever deepening and total humility, an ever deeper life of prayer and docility to the Holy Spirit, an every deeper apprehension of the good, the true, the beautiful in God, in His Church, in creation, in our brothers and sisters, and even in the places and people who seem to our feeble eyes and hearts to be most removed from all of that.

On the mountain, the disciples (we) see the Lord in glory. We all have those moments and times in our life when God is simply there, shining and beautiful. The disciples (we) go down the mountain, and there is a man and his possessed son, and much screaming and confusion and ugliness. The call is to go out with confidence and faith into the ugliness and confusion of the world, certain that God is there, too, that He is with us and He is with all these other people, and that His love and His mercy are upon us all.

This is faith: out of the encounter into the mission, out of the revelation into the darkness and chaos of the maelstrom of the world. Down from the mountain and into service and love, but always with eyes, minds, and hearts focused on the Lord and His revealed truth, goodness, and beauty. It seems to me that this is what Pope Francis is calling all of us to, and I will have more to say about that next week after we have finished reading the Sermon on the Mount together. Until tomorrow… 

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