Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.
— Jesus Christ in The Gospel of Saint Luke, 12:35-37
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
— The Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews, 11-1-3
BEFORE taking up the headline topic, a word on the state-spurred decimation of drug offenders.
Our July 26 column condemned most of the bloodletting as plain murder, since it’s impossible that hundreds of suspects resisted arrest violently after reading about the first fatalities. President Rodrigo Duterte himself rightly noted weeks ago that a number of killings sought to silence traffickers and users in cahoots with cops.
Religious and political leaders, including Vice-President Leni Robredo last week, lament the lack of public outrage over the widespread assassinations, and ask why the silence.
One reason is the immense gravity of the Aquino-era crime explosion, recounted in our July 28 column. About a third of Filipinos are either victims of crime or drugs, or their close family and friends, and they just want to see lawlessness stopped by any means.
But another factor is the main subject of this article: our modern era’s lack of faith.
Not only do many people today not believe in God and His immutable laws, including the Fifth Commandement “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” We also lack faith in His power to make things right, even reforming hardened criminals, if we hold fast to His righteousness.
With no God to heed and hope in, many see killing the lawless as a necessary good.
Can we believe again?
With science, technology and secular media defining what modern society sees as true and right, can people regain faith in God and obedience to His edicts?
Well, today’s Sunday mass readings happen to be about faith and what Christians should do to enliven it. And the recipe can be acronymed BLT.
Believe even if you don’t see.
Live the faith.
Tell the Good News.
As the above-quoted lines from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, faith demands a willingness to believe in what cannot be seen yet or even ever.
The way Abraham believed in God’s promise to make his descendants as many as the stars. There was obviously no way he could see if that pledge of progeny would come true. Yet he believed and left his native Ur for the Promised Land of Canaan.
Also requiring belief in the unseen is faith in man’s immortal soul, created in God’s image and redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. More than respect for human rights, it is Christian belief in man’s soul and the need to save it that makes killing un-Christian, since it curtails the chance to repent and return to our Father in heaven.
What’s ironic is that countless scientific, technological and cultural achievements would never have happened if the minds that engendered them lacked faith and didn’t believe in ideas and things yet unseen.
Beethoven’s symphonies, Michaelangelo’s frescoes, Shakespeare’s plays, Einstein’s theories, Steve Jobs’s devices, and other ideas and creations through the ages all began in the minds of their creators, who believed they could become real.
Science and faith, moreover, both offer concepts that may not be visible to the naked eye — from subatomic particles and forces to three Persons in one God — to explain or predict what we can see and feel, like the behavior of physical matter and the stirrings of the spirit.
So if we are to rekindle faith, believing in what we do not yet see before us is a necessary step, as it is for every new theory, artwork, invention, and enterprise. Indeed, in the Christian view, faith in what can be is a key part of the image of God in us.
Living and telling the faith
Our Lord’s words in the Mass Gospel reading spell out the other two ways to rekindle faith: living and telling it.
Jesus tells His disciples to go about their lives with full belief in “that the Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” Not just relying on God’s providence, but also devoting ourselves, our possessions, and our lives to His will, like the faithful servants waiting for and on their master.
So if we are to truly believe in God, it must show in our daily lives: relying on Him, doing His will, loving Him in His children, especially the less fortunate, to whom every kindness we do is done to Christ Himself.
And when we live the faith, then Jesus promises that God Himself “will come and serve them.” Immense graces and bounties will come, both spiritual and material, as only heaven can shower.
Then we must tell the world of this good news: how awakening and living our faith have brought the love, grace, peace and joy of God to us.
This testimony of how we believed and witnessed heaven’s transforming generosity is more convincing and edifying than even the most eloquent preaching, though we certainly need the latter, too.
While the unbelieving and the doubting may scoff at centuries-old writings and teachings, they cannot just dismiss the sincere and simple face-to-face stories of people transformed by faith and touched by God’s grace and mercy.
Believe even when you don’t see. Live your faith. And tell the good news of what embracing and living the faith has done for you.
BLT. Try it, and God will help not just our unbelief, but the world’s. Amen.