January 29, 2011 - Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Our first reading from Hebrews explains to us what faith means by giving examples from the life of Abraham. The last example is when Abraham took his son Isaac on the mountain to sacrifice him because God told him to. This is a story that people usually misunderstand. Most people who hear this story think that Abraham expected to walk down the mountain without his son. This is not true. Abraham had been promised grandchildren through Isaac.  Therefore, he knew that Isaac would not be killed or, if he were killed, “he reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead.”

This fact changes our entire understanding of the episode. Abraham was relying on the promise of God. Abraham’s faith was that he always expected the promise to be fulfilled, no matter what. He knew that God could carry out his promise. He knew that God would not lie. Therefore nothing stopped him from taking Isaac up on the mountain. Nothing stopped him from tying up his son. Nothing stopped him from raising the knife. And if an angel had not stopped him, nothing else would have prevented him from killing his own son, because he knew that, somehow, Isaac would live to have children.

The disciples in the boat in today’s Gospel are in a different situation. Jesus did not make any promise to them about not dying in a storm, yet he still accuses them of not having faith. But since faith is believing that God will fulfill his promises, how have the disciples failed? When they were afraid they turned to Jesus. Their failure was in their fear. We have a new promise from God: Jesus. Jesus is the promise. St. John tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. He also says that this is love: not that we love God but that he loves us and sent his only son.

God sent Jesus, therefore we have no reason to be afraid. Fear is an emotion foreign to a true Christian. There will be difficulties in our life; there will be suffering, but what could we possibly be afraid of? Poverty? Blessed are the poor. Weakness? God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Suffering? We make up in our bodies what was lacking in the suffering of Christ. Death? Jesus conquered death. When fear remains in you, in me, in all of us, we must hold fast to God’s promise to us: Jesus.