“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”  Words from our 2nd reading today from the 11th chapter of the letter to the Hebrews – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace & his joy.

 

A sick man turned to his doctor, as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die.  Tell me, what lies on the other side?”  Very quietly the Doctor said, “I don’t know.”  “You don’t know?  You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?”  The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side of which came a sound of scratching and whining.  As he opened the door a dog sprang into the room and leaped on the doctor with an eager show of gladness.  Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my faithful dog?  He’s never been in this room before.  He didn’t know what was inside.  He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened he sprang in without fear.  I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I know one thing: I know my Master is there, and that is enough.  When that door opens, I will pass through it with gladness, and with no fear.”  To rest assured that everything is taken care of like that, to need nothing or no one else; this is what it means to have faith. 

 

It is this faith that allowed Abraham to embark on the adventure of a lifetime though he was already an old man.  He had no idea where he was going or where he’d end up; he didn’t know how God would make of him a father of many nations with offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sands on the seashore; he struggled to understand what God had in store for his beloved son Isaac upon that mountain, but he knew his Lord and Master was there leading him.  Such faith was enough for him.   

 

It is this faith in which Sarah could overcome her frustrations, for she had thought herself degenerate and barren; she was angry with her servants and jealous of others’ good fortune.  After a long life of bitterness, she came to trust in the promise of her God, and thus came to know laughter and joy once again.  Such faith was enough for her. 

 

It is this faith that gave hope to the Israelites through many years of suffering: as they toiled as slaves under the Egyptians for generations; as they were helplessly pursued by their enemies with no defense of their own; as they wandered lost in the desert for many years; as they knew physical hunger and thirst… complaining about their present lot was the only way they knew how to pray, but in faith they knew that God would hear the cry of their sufferings and allow them to literally pass over it all.  And so they celebrate the feast of Passover time and again, giving thanks that their faith in a compassionate God was not misplaced.  Such faith was enough for them.

It is this faith that kept the good servant in the Gospel vigilant for his master’s return.  Believing his master to treat him and his fellow servants well, he lived in peace with his co-workers; trusting that he was provided for, the servant did not need to help himself to food or drink that was not his own; he loyally kept watch over the house while his master was away lest it be broken into by a thief.  It was faithfulness, and faithfulness in his master alone, that made for his promotion to chief steward of all his Lord’s property.  Such faith was enough for him.

 

It is this faith that has been passed from Abraham and Sarah to the Israelites, from the many great holy men and women throughout the ages that now has been handed on to us.  It is this faith in God that keeps us going today.  I have no magical solution to the problems we face in our country and in our world.  When we confront painful church history, when we witness recurring mass shootings, when we palpably feel incredible divisions and racism and exclusion in our communities, when we are overwhelmed by a fast-paced world filled with unreasonable expectations, when we struggle through work and addictions and family strife and culture shock and uncertainty, when we see the absurdities of life and have nowhere, nowhere else to turn in this secular world, it is this faith that allows us to hear the Lord Jesus’ encouragement to us today: “do not be afraid any longer little flock.”  Faith is the substance of things hoped for… because we know that there is something better out there.  By faith, we come to know peace in our hearts and the graces that come from God’s reign, and in his Kingdom true treasure is found.  Amidst the illusory and short-lived things of life in this world we also see through faith the blessings of God unfolding around us giving us life and energy and purpose.  Such is the evidence of things not seen, not of this world.  And consequently, that is why much is demanded of us – difficult as it may be – for we have been entrusted with much, this precious gift of faith that reveals to us something greater than this world has to offer.  Nowhere in human history was life full of rainbows and unicorns.  Every age and generation has had to face its own unique hardships, scandals, and sufferings, and yet it was faith that got them through.  Knowing God was there was enough for Abraham and Sarah and Israel and the disciples and so many more.  For millennia, faith has allowed the human race to scan the horizon without fear and to welcome the presence of God in their lives with great eagerness, much like our beloved dog friend that was faithful to his owner, the doctor.  As I live this life and together walk this earth with you, in faith I tell you that God is with us and that such faith is enough.