By Deacon Jerry Franzen – St. Paul Parish August 12, 2001
Wisdom 18:6-9 Hebrews11:1-2, 8-19 Luke 12:32-48
An atheist was fishing from a boat
in the middle of a large very peaceful lake.
All of a sudden the Loch Ness monster rose out of the water,
flipped the boat up in the air
and was poised with mouth open
to eat both the boat and the atheist.
As the atheist flipped through the air, he yelled,
“Oh my God, help!”
Just then the scene froze with the atheist in mid-air.
In a loud deep voice God said,
“I thought you didn’t believe in me.”
The stunned atheist replied, “God, give me a break.
Until seconds ago,
I didn’t believe in the Loch Ness monster either.”
We say that we belong to the Catholic religion.
Some might say that we are of the Catholic faith.
Others might say that they follow Catholic beliefs.
The words “religion”, “faith” and “beliefs”
are sometime used interchangeably,
to the point that one might ask
whether there is any difference between them.
One of my teachers offered his distinctions between the three.
He seemed to present them as separate levels of development.
Our beliefs are those things to which we give assent.
Things we say “yes” to.
Yes, there is an all-powerful and all-loving God.
Yes, Jesus is the Son of God.
Yes, we have been redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Yes, the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
Examples of what we believe.
It seems that our atheist just about got to this level.
Religion is the set of practices
within the surrounding organization of a community
by which persons worship God
and seek a closer relationship with God.
The Mass, the seven sacraments, the rosary, the sign of the cross,
the Liturgy of the Hours, Bible study;
these are some of the elements that make up our religion.
It is doubtful that our atheist was at this level.
I don’t think his “Oh my God, help!” was actually a prayer.
It seems that faith is more of a process –
the process whereby items of belief and religion determine
the way that we live our lives.
God is such a loving God that he will never ask me
to do something for which he has not
given me the necessary gifts and talents.
I believe this; I agree that it is true.
To the extent that I have faith in it,
I am then open to whatever God calls me to do.
Bible study is an important element of my religion;
I strive to learn more about the Scriptures.
To the extent that I have faith in what
the scriptures speak to me,
my study causes me to live my life
in a more Christ-like manner.
In the reading from the book of Wisdom,
we heard that the Israelite nation
not only knew of and believed in their covenant with God,
but also that their faith in it
allowed then to wait in courage
for the promised salvation.
Their faith determined how they lived their lives.
Of course, there were times
when they were out of touch with their faith,
and they acted accordingly then as well.
In the reading from the letter to the Hebrews, we heard that
“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence for things unseen.”
Abraham’s faith is realized in his obedience to God’s call
to move to an unknown country.
Abraham’s faith is evidenced by his ability to father a son
at an age when he and Sarah
were seen as being incapable of conceiving a child.
Abraham’s faith is realized in offering up Issac
in the hope that he,Abraham,
would continue to receive God’s promises of salvation.
Abraham’s faith determined how he lived his life.
And in the Gospel Jesus instructs us on how to be faithful.
Like the faithful steward,
we must be continually about the tasks given us by the master.
We must be doing God’s will.
God’s will must determine how we live our lives.
This must be the central question –
How does our relationship with our God
determine what we do on a daily basis?
This week stem cell research has been the important topic.
The sanctity of life is at issue.
Some agree with the President Bush’s decision
to respect the sanctity of life by not providing support
for research that would involve
the future killing of embryos.
Others would have liked a broader stance
that includes not supporting research on cell lines
obtained from the previous killing of embryos.
In either case,
the fundamental belief in the sanctity of life is at issue.
Where this leads us as a nation in stem cell research
is of the utmost importance,
but we should also see this
as an opportunity to look inwardly:
How does my fundamental belief in the sanctity of life
affect the way I live out each day?
We must each respect our own lives as being holy.
Are there practices of eating, drinking, smoking and inactivity
that are harming our bodies and are a drain on our lives?
We must not forget that respect for the sanctity of life
begins at home.
We must treat others lives with the sanctity we believe in.
Where are our efforts to nurture the lives of those around us?
We must go beyond the family, to reach out to the poor,
those whose lives must be blessed
by our presence and our assistance.
Mother Theresa was one of the most outspoken
on the sanctity of life.
And it wasn’t just beginning of life issues.
Much of her efforts were spent on increasing
the length and quality of life of children and adults.
She was once asked by a reporter
how she was able to deal with the fact that,
in spite of all her work
and the work of her order in India,
there remained right in Calcutta a high level of poverty,
terrible living conditions
and a high mortality rate among the population.
The reporter questioned just how she could consider herself
to have been successful in her efforts.
Her reply has become quite famous and is often quoted.
It went something like this:
“The Lord doesn’t require me to be successful, only to be faithful.”
For us, being faithful means that our beliefs,
our religious practices,
our very relationship with the Lord
must determine how we live out each day.