Reflections on the Readings
August 11, 2013 - 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year C
Open the Eyes of My Heart
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. - Jesus
"I had my heart set on that!" Someone exclaims with a voice of disappointment. We've all said it. Just when you thought the deal was done, the loan approved, the project awarded, it evaporated into thin air. Poof! And it was gone. And your heart sunk. When you thought you couldn't live without it you realized you would be living without it. Life goes on and we need faith to assure us that we must live rightly and fill our hearts with 'treasure in the heavens.'
The readings today suggest there is treasure that is substantial and filled with great reward. About five decades after the Passion of our Lord, Luke writes for the earliest followers of Christ. He invites them to remain fearless, to be filled with faith, and to always be vigilant.
We Have a Future - Why are we Afraid?
If half of what we fear was even remotely real, we should all be dead. But we're not. Life goes on. And more and more, as we grow in Christ, we begin to believe and understand that it is our Father's intention and pleasure to give us the kingdom. There you have it. It pleases the Father to promise us an inheritance within his thrice holy family. It is a communion of love about which we struggle to describe with earthly language.
We know such love exists for we know by the Spirit there is love, a healing and soothing and redeeming love. Words of this world may fail us to speak of such love. But we must try. For if we do not praise him the very rocks will cry out and adore him! But it is we who are the living stones of a living Church conceived by a loving God. Let us be bold and exult in the Lord for praise from the upright is fitting.
There is a future for us that is incorruptible and full of glory. We taste it and see it with eyes of faith in the eating of the holy bread and in the drinking of the holy wine. Reserved for us is a treasure in the heavens that does not fail. No thief approaches the holy habitations. There is nothing that corrodes or wears out or falls apart there. We shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. It's that future filled with indestructible hope and why Luke begins today's gospel saying, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Faith is a New Way of Seeing!
Is it possible to see what it is the Father is giving us? A prayer we might pray more often is, "Open my eyes Lord, and help me to see." But it's not our natural eyes we pray for. We pray to see with the heart because it's the inner blindness that trips us up and keeps us from seeing the spiritual kingdom; the gift of the Father. Its light reveals to us a world of life, a life that is ours through the Spirit. Without it we remain blinded by self interests, machinations that work to keeps us from love for God and for our neighbor. It's that vision we need to remain loving and compassionate, kind and forgiving. Seeing with the eyes that God gives us opens a whole new way of seeing. With our inner eyes opened we see what is true, good, and beautiful. The lust of the eyes of our flesh deceive us while our true eyes help us to see as we were meant to see from the beginning.
The Old Testament Fathers of Faith are described for us in the second reading. From them we inherit a new vision, the vision the Father has for us and for our world. Given the gift of faith, father Abraham looked up into the heavens and glimpsed a city not made with hands where the righteous shine as the stars of the cosmos and are as innumerable as the sand on the sea shore.
Witnesses to the faith remind us that we do not seek evidence in order to believe. Somehow within their hearts they believed and then saw the mighty workings of him who called them out of darkness. Abel offered sacrifices that were a sweet smelling savor in the courts of holy love. Cain despised Abel and gave the world its first martyr. It is Abel's blood that cries out from the ground as a witness of one who saw God and in his heart glorified him.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob continued in faith and were heirs of the same promise. What might that promise be? They saw a world of no more tears, no more sorrows, and no more death. For with their heart they believed and with their mouth they confessed that they were journeying toward home. It is the home of all who love and know the truth. Faith always gives a new way of seeing. And a new way of seeing and knowing means a new way of living and loving.
This came home in a particular way for Abraham. The promise to Abraham was that through his son Isaac would come his descendants. In a remarkable display of trust and obedience Abraham offered up the son of promise because he considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead. That's a remarkable vision of faith. It's a vision that brings about a knowing and a conviction of things not seen. By such faith men of old received divine approval.
It occurs to me how much we need this same kind of vibrant and eye opening faith. Everyone of us have an opportunity to see through the eyes of faith. To have a vision of Christ and hearing him say, "Greater things than these shall ye do, because I go to the Father." I'm not sure we've fully tapped into this revelation. I'm not convinced that the world has seen all that the Father wills to do through the Church conceived through the blood of the Lamb. Whatever it is that we may yet see it will be the result of having come to walking faithfully in that light that no darkness can conquer. In whatever way we have remaining blind spots concerning the heavenly kingdom, God can help us to daily have a new way of seeing. For we do not walk by sight but by faith.
A Holy Vigilance - A Heavenly Vision
The first Passover was observed in Egypt just before Israel began their pilgrimage to the Land of Promise. On that historic night the firstborn of man and beast in all of Egypt were slain. Only in the homes of the chosen people where the blood of the lamb was smeared above the door did the angel of death pass over. Those families ate the lamb with their loins girded and with their lamps burning. The head of every household led his family in a night of vigilance and readiness. For the Lord was about to lead his people out of bondage.
Vigilance is still the watchword for the Church. The opposite of that is slothfulness, one of the seven deadly sins. It imperils our soul and dulls our senses to what is eternal. Through new eyes we can see things that others on this planet may not know exist. But you and I do. We have a Master who is coming again. We keep this hope alive by being good stewards of God's calling on our lives. As good stewards of the grace we have received we are called to let the light that we have received shine for all the world to see. Let your light shine in such a way that everyone may see too. The whole world is in need of amazing grace. Of grace that is greater than sin. Of grace that gives the gift of sight to those blinded by the devil's trickery.
We need a fresh vision of heaven. I pray we all may have a revival of a new vision of God's love for the least, the last, and the lost. Vigilance is necessary if we are to be the Church that grows in grace and in the knowledge that Jesus came into the world to seek and to save the lost. He came that we might all be saved from the awful tyranny of hell's designs. Jesus came to lift our hearts out of darkness and to give us new eyes; eyes of faith that the passage of time does not erode. He gives us eyes of faith that see what God has prepared for those who love him. And when the outer man of flesh and bones grows old with age the inner person of our heart is being renewed. For when we close our eyes for the last time in this world we will awaken to see what we always knew was there; a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit him at: www.dennishankins.com