We live in society that does not believe in God, or rather, a society that believes in several gods—the god of money, the god of pleasure, the god of fame, the god of popularity, and the god of power; this presents a great challenge to our faith.The Second Reading speaks to this challenge. In this Reading, St. Paul is writing to the Hebrews, a Jewish community that converted to Christianity, and found itself living in a Hellenistic culture. The Greek world at this time prided itself on its Humanism; the Greeks considered themselves to be intellectually sophisticated philosophers, artists, and politicians who enjoyed life and the pleasures it had to offer. St. Paul’s letter describes a reality that the converted Hebrews, and indeed all Christians, suffer from: for although we are looking to find our place in the world, we also know that that we are not from the world. In his words, we are “strangers and aliens on earth seeking a homeland,” (Heb 11:13) or better yet, “desiring a better homeland” (Heb 11:16).
I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to travel to a foreign country, but if you have, you will know that one of the first things you find yourself doing is comparing how things are—the food, the traffic, the people—to what you are used to. “Oh, back at home, we do it this way,” you might say, or “Well, back at home we eat this.” After a few days you start missing your homeland. “Oh,” you cry, “what I would give for a good San Antonio brisket!” You start approaching anyone you overhear speaking English, “Hey! Where are you from? I’m from Texas. What are you doing here?” In short, it doesn’t take long at all before you begin to reminisce longingly about home. This feeling of being exiled from home is what St. Paul is speaking of when he says, “They desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.” We, as Christians, live in hope of the resurrection, we are always seeking our homeland; although we may live in our native country, and speak our native language, we always remain strangers and aliens in this world, we always long for the fulfillment of our true home.
“Your Father,” says Jesus in the Gospel, “is pleased to give you the Kingdom” (Lk 12:32). This Kingdom, this homeland is not a far off place somewhere “up in the sky”; we can start living in the Kingdom of God today, in the midst of the difficult and imperfect world we live in. In the Second Reading, St Paul has a simple response to offer to the struggling Hebrew community he writes to: Faith, live by faith. What is Faith, you may ask? Is Faith a mortgage of our capacity to reason? Is it ascent without question? Is it be blind obedience? St Paul explains it beautifully when he says, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for” (Heb 11:1). Ask yourself, what do I hope for? Where is my treasure? What do I truly desire? And, what hope do I make present? “Where your treasure is, there also will be your heart,” (Mt 6:21) says the Gospel.
If you have had the blessing of studying for a degree, you know that the student is moved by the hope of graduating. The medical student is moved by the hope of becoming a doctor, by his dreams of saving lives, curing people, and making a difference. But the hope of the student is not an idle or lazy hope; the student doesn’t think, Yes, I hope that one day I’ll somehow become a doctor. His is an active hope that requires effort. Through his actions the student strives to make his hope present. He actualizes his hope through his actions: he studies, he works hard, and he practices over and over again; he realizes what he hopes for through his actions of faith.
Faith and hope are not passive virtues. What Paul challenges us to do is to make present our hope through our actions of faith. Our hope would be sterile if we just said, “God loves me, I hope for His salvation, I hope for His love”; If we hope for the Kingdom, then that hope will be reflected in our daily life through our actions of faith. If we are not striving to be better Christians, if we don’t forgive, pray, or perform acts of charity, then we cannot say, “I hope in His salvation.”
It seems to me that often we want to live a Christian life, but are unwilling to give up leading a worldly life. We want to love God, but we also want the pleasures of life; we love Christ, but we also love popularity; we want to follow the message of Christ, but also want to follow the message of the world. We want to play both sides, and to live both hopes, but no one, says the Gospel, “can serve two masters” (Lk 16:13). Ask yourself, what is my hope? What can I try to actualize in my daily life? How far am I willing to go to live the Gospel of Christ? And to what extent am I willing to live it out in my daily life?
Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to teach us to hope, and to show us how to live that hope in our daily lives. May she help us remember that our homeland is already present, that “the Kingdom of God is already here” (Lk 17:21). May we find that our homeland, the land we most desire, is present when we strive to live it out in our life of faith.
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