In reading today’s passage from the Abraham saga in Genesis, and the experience of the disciples of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel, my attention easily turned to the way that our lack of faith keeps us thinking small, when God is asking greater things of us.
Lot hesitated to leave the city of Sodom, thereby risking the lives of his wife and two daughters. On the brink of the disaster that would sweep over the city, Lot looks for a less daunting alternative. Even when told to run to the distant hills, Lot bargains for a destination which is not quite that far, singling out a little village on the edge of the valley, and which he thinks should be far enough away from Sodom.
The Gospel of Matthew reminds us of the close fellowship of Jesus with the apostles. They are out on the lake, Jesus is napping. A storm comes up. The apostles we have already seen in less flattering light. They are a reflection of ourselves, wanting to follow Jesus, knowing that God has singled him out for a divine mission, but never far from the doubts that would eventually pull them away from the one who would give his life for them–and for us.
They came and woke him, saying,
"Lord, save us! We are perishing!"
He said to them, "Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?"
Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea,
and there was great calm.
God had asked Abraham to accept a covenant with him, in perpetuity. He became the father to many descendants, who would live with the covenant God had offered. Lot, his nephew, was the pragmatist who saw short-term gain as good enough.
Jesus had asked the apostles to follow him, and had introduced them to the promise of the Kingdom. In spite of their squabbles and personal aspirations, in the end, they rose to the challenge that Jesus had given them, and which we just heard at our Sunday Eucharist: "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God." (Lk 9:62)
Every day of our lives we will be in the same situation. We may have an easy day, relaxed, lots of chores gotten out of the way, a happy domestic scene. Or we may have a tough day, unfinished work, exhaustion, conflicts within the family, unappreciated at work… We know how it might go. To have faith in Jesus is not to "believe" what Jesus taught. Faith is not about tenets, doctrines, or teachings. Faith is the total confidence we place in Jesus’ testimony: that we are children of one Father, that we are more important to God than any other creatures, that we must love one another as God has loved us, and that there is no greater love than to give one’s life for one’s friends. Let us be a people of GREAT faith.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P., is the director of the Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.