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06.07.2017 03:21:55 2011x read.
The Power of Faith in God.

06 JULY, 2017, Thursday, 13th Week, Ordinary Time.



SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GN 22:1 – 19; PS 114:1-6,8-9; MT 9:1-8 ]

This life is truly unpredictable.  As the saying goes, “Man proposes God disposes.”  Whilst it is important to plan and be responsible stewards yet we are not in control of everything in life.  Much is left to divine providence, or some would call it fate.   Man however is always fearful of suffering, pain and most of all death.  Hence, he feels the need to take control of his life.  He cannot leave things to chance.  He wants to be in charge.  He trusts more in science and technology than God and His divine providence.

The irony is that the more he tries to control and manage his own life, the more mess he creates for himself.  Indeed, when man is fearful, they will do all kinds of things to protect himself, even by unscrupulous means.  This was what happened to the paralyzed man in today’s gospel.  His physical paralysis was but a manifestation of his spiritual paralysis.  He was paralyzed by the sins he had committed, the anger and resentment in his heart.  He could not let go of his guilt and sins.   We too are paralyzed by our sins.  Because we live a life of sin, we lack the wisdom to see situations in the right perspective.  We make unwise decisions and seek the wrong things in life.

For this reason, what is most important and highly praised in the Word of God is faith.  Faith in God is the only way to live a life of freedom and peace.  It is said that God created freedom in view of faith.  With faith in God, we can overcome all things in life.  With faith in God, we have no fear of evil and suffering.  With faith in God, we conquer not only sin but the fear of death.  Faith therefore is the key to freedom and joy in life.

What is faith?  Faith means first and foremost, trust in God.  Like Abraham, we are called to trust that God will provide.  When Isaac asked, “Father, look, here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering’”.  He did not know how the Lord would make possible for him to offer the sacrifice at Mount Moriah.  He did not know what to say to Isaac.  Surely, he could not say to him, “you are the sacrifice?”  It was surely heartbreaking.  But he trusted that the Lord knew what was best.  So with faith, he brought Isaac to be sacrificed.  But God provided another offering instead by giving him a ram.

Secondly, faith is more than just trust, it means obedience.  Hence, when God calls and commands, we are called to render the obedience of faith.  Faith is an act of obedience.  This was what happened to the paralyzed man.  All his life, he obeyed his own will.  For once, he listened to Jesus and believed in Him.  He trusted that his sins were forgiven and obeyed the Lord when He ordered him to take up the mat and walk.  Without obedience of faith, he would never have walked at all!   This is what St Paul wrote about faith in Christ, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.” (Rom 1:5)  Indeed, only with obedience is our faith a saving faith.  We are called to trust in His promises and His word.  But we must also carry out what He tells us, otherwise faith without obedience would render ineffective the promises of God.

Faith itself is an act of obedience.  That is why it is called the obedience of faith.  Do we trust God enough to obey Him? Do we believe that God can heal us of our sickness?   Do we believe that he can reconcile our broken marriage?  The truth is that in our mind, we have said, “No, it is impossible!  God cannot do it!  So I should learn to live with it and accept my illness.  The marriage cannot work, so let us divorce.  So the real obstacle is not that God cannot heal us or rectify the situation but because we do not believe that He can do it.  We refuse to obey and turn to Him in faith, taking His commands as prescribed in the Word of God without trying to make compromises.

Abraham is called our Father in faith because of his faith in God.   The depth of his faith is seen in his sacrifice of Isaac, his only son born to him when he was 100 years old!  But when commanded by the Lord to offer his only son to Him, he did not hesitate but set out early the next morning to Mount Moriah as instructed.  His love for God took precedence over his love for his son.  No greater faith can one arrive at than to sacrifice your own flesh and blood, someone whom you love dearly.   Abraham’s faith was at its pinnacle in his obedience to God’s command to sacrifice his son.

How, then, can we arrive at this faith of trust and total obedience? In the first place, let us realize that perfect faith is not something that we attain overnight.  Abraham grew in faith as well.  Little by little, through the various events unfolded to him, he learnt to trust in God and His divine power.  Those times when he tried to take things into his own hands, like having the slave-girl to bear a child for him, he landed himself into more trouble.  So it was through trials that he gradually learnt to trust God completely. We too must take baby steps to trust God before we can make the leap of faith.  This is true in human relationships as well.  Trust is not something that we build up overnight.  Trust begets trust.  Our trust increases when we know we did not trust in vain.   So we must begin to trust in small things and then we will learn how to trust in big things.  So like Abraham, we are tested each day to trust the Lord.  Like Abraham, we are purified in love and faith.

So how can we begin?  We must surrender our ego and pride to the Lord.  If we want to trust in God, we need humility to know the primacy of grace and the power of God.  Many of us are like the Jewish leaders who could not believe that God could work beyond our narrow confines. Hence when Jesus forgave the sins of the paralyzed man, they were scandalized and said, “This man is blaspheming.”  This is the same complaint today by those who do not believe in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  They say “why do we need to confess our sins to a priest? Only God can forgive!”  Yet the truth is that those who avail themselves of the Sacrament have experienced the wonderful power not just of forgiveness but healing of the heart and the mind and even of the body.  Indeed, we too will be like the crowd who witnessed the healing of the man.  “A feeling of awe came over the crowd when they saw this, and they praised God for giving such power to men.”

Secondly, we must surrender our things and resources to the Lord.  Many of us are very attached to our things, money and property.  We are afraid to let go.  Our security is in our possessions.  So long as we do not gradually learn to surrender our possessions, we can never experience the power of God at work in our lives. However, those who surrender experience the power of grace.  Abraham left everything to go to a foreign land when he was relatively rich where he was.  But because he surrendered, the Lord blessed him with even more.

Thirdly, we must surrender our loved ones to the Lord.  This is the penultimate surrender.  This is the most difficult part of surrendering.  We can give away our wealth, pleasure and our status, but to give up someone we love so much is the ultimate surrender.  This was what Abraham did.  He gave up his only son to God.  Very few of us can surrender our loved ones because we are so attached to them.  They become, unfortunately, our possessions!  We say it is our love for them but sometimes, it is more of attachment than love.  True love always sets the person free.  We want to control their lives.  We are so afraid to lose them because they are our possession.  Abraham certainly loved his son but he was willing to surrender to the Father because he loved the Father more.

The ultimate question is, do we love God more than all other things, as the Lord asked St Peter after His resurrection.  Only when we love Him above everything else, can we then feed His sheep.  The reality is that we love our spouse, children and friends more than God.  God takes fourth place in our lives, after them.  Because we do not place God above all others, we do not love them rightly.  Eventually, by making them into our idols, we are possessed by them.   When we make them our gods, we will destroy them.  Only when we love God above all else, will we then be able to love our loved ones with the heart and love of God, with compassion and unconditional love, and yet not possessing them for ourselves, but releasing them for the love and service of others.

Finally, the greatest act of faith is to surrender one’s life entirely to the Lord, like Jesus did at His death on the cross.  When we are able to say “yes” to the Lord, a “yes” that could cost our entire life, this is the ultimate faith.  When we can surrender our lives without fear or worry, then we truly become life-giving.  We are set free and our lives will be one of great joy.

Indeed, when we love God above all else, He will reward us with greater things.  Just like when we lose something or someone, God surprises us by sending us better things and better friends.  Most of all, not only will we receive His blessings but we will be a blessing to others as well.  God said to Abraham, “I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.”   Through him, God blessed the world. Indeed, if we trust the Lord more and obey His Word, we will find that the plan of God is much better than ours. What then is our choice?


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

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