“Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer has become impossible and your heart has turned to stone. If you have never had any distractions you don’t know how to pray. For the secret of prayer is a hunger for God and for the vision of God, a hunger that lies far deeper than the level of language or affection.” Thomas Merton
Faith: The realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Much has been written and said throughout the centuries about the faith of Abraham, our father in faith.
Yet I sometimes think we don’t talk enough about Abraham. Out of all the people in the world, God chose and called Abraham from the darkness and made a promise to him that is still valid today about 4,000 years later: God promised Abraham that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.
Saint Paul praises the faith of Abraham in today’s second reading and he also does extensively in his letter to the Romans. Abraham believed in God and God’s promise against all odds, he believed despite the fact he was old and his wife was sterile. He believed in God and his promise despite the fact God asked him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.
What a faith and what an example of faith in God for us. This is why Abraham is our father in faith. We should be proud of having him as our father in faith and strive to imitate his firm faith.
As Saint Paul wrote, faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Abraham hoped to have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky because God promised him so, and it came to be. What he hoped for was realized. Faith is the realization of what is hoped for. Abraham also found evidence in God’s promise that he would have descendants as countless as the sands on the seashore, even though he could not see them. Faith is evidence of things not seen.
Faith is believing without seeing. Faith is true knowledge without having the whole picture. If we saw the whole picture, it would no longer require faith.
In the way Abraham was called by God, was given a promise, and believed, Jesus in today’s Gospel calls us, gives us a promise and invites us to believe.
What is this promise?
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. The master will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. The master will put the servant in charge of all his property.”
Jesus also tells us that those who are not vigilant and are caught unprepared when the master returns will be beaten severely and be assigned a place with the unfaithful.
Jesus promises us eternal life with him if we are faithful to him and vigilant. This is his promise to us. Do we truly believe this? Is our faith firm like Abraham’s?
Nobody knows the day nor the hour of their death. But this should not make us afraid if our faith is firm. Heaven is the goal of our faith: heaven is the realization of what we hope for. We hope for eternal life and know it will become a reality if we remain faithful. We trust in Jesus’ promise even though we have not seen heaven, we walk by faith and not by sight.
Jesus also warns us that if we are not vigilant and become distracted, not fulfilling our duties, we will be punished. Jesus mentions eternal punishment and the eternal fires several times in Scripture. The modern notion that hell does not actually exist is probably the greatest trick Satan has ever played on mankind. At the end of time, divine justice always prevails and those who have done good will be rewarded and those who have done evil will be punished.
Returning to Paul’s words, faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.
We hope for heaven. We have not seen heaven. Yet we know Jesus has promised us heaven and we know that Jesus’ words are true.
Christ is our hope, our only certain hope, because we know his words are true and He will keep his promise.
As Abraham believed in God’s promise and remained faithful despite all odds, let us embrace Jesus’ promise by remaining faithful to him, trusting that He will reward us with eternal life and put us in charge of his household.
“Every human being worships someone or something. Worship is everything we say and everything we do, revealing that which we treasure and value most in life. Worship allows us to love how God loves, what God loves, and who God loves.”
Ron Williams, Senior Pastor, Pathway Community Church
The best cure for anxiety: The “surrender prayer”
Jesus tells a soul: “Why are you upset and agitated? Leave your cares to Me and all will be fine.”
Often we forget to even ask Him.
Forming this habit and accepting its consequent peace is not instantaneous, of course. But we can gradually surrender our troubles by entrusting them to God and centering ourselves in His peace.
“Jesus, You take over” definitely wasn’t my way years back. I was more likely to fret, freak, and frazzle as I listed for God the possible ways He could work out my worry or situation. I’m sure he appreciated the suggestions, but my “to do” list was usually coming more from panic and despair than trust.
A friend emailed me a surrender prayer when I was going through a particularly stressful time with my teenage son who has autism. The peace I found in it and its central message, “Jesus, you take over,” has stayed with me.
The prayer was written by Fr. Don Dolindo Ruotolo, based on his prayer and inspirations from God. Fr. Dolindo (1882-1970) now has a cause for canonization open. He prayed the Rosary constantly and referred to himself as “the Madonna’s little old man.”
Jesus to the soul: Why are you upset and agitated? Leave your cares to Me and all will be fine. I tell you honestly, every act of true and blind reliance on Me, results in what you desire and will resolve all your difficulties. Abandonment in Me does not mean being frustrated, becoming anxious and desperate, offering Me your anxious prayer, that I may follow you and have your anxiety be a prayer. Abandonment means to shut the eyes of your soul in peace, moving your thoughts away from your troubles, and instead of thinking about your worries and pain, let Me take over your troubles. Simply say: Jesus, You take over. To be worried, restless, and to think of the consequences of an event is the opposite of reliance, it is really contrary to it. It is like a child, who wants his mom to take care his needs, but in the way he wants: and with his whims and childish ideas he hampers her work. Shut your eyes and go with the flow of My grace. Do not ponder over your present moment and put away thoughts of your future as a temptation; rest in Me, believe in My goodness and I swear on My Love, that if you think like this: Jesus, You take over, I indeed will do it for you, I will comfort you, free you, and guide you.
If I have to take you in a different direction from the one you are looking at, I will train you, I pick you up in my arms, and you will find yourself, like a baby sleeping in his mother’s arms, on the other shore. What gives you immense stress and hurts you, is your reasoning over it, your thoughts and the pains it gives you; it is wanting at all costs to take care by yourself of what is afflicting you. How many things I can do, be it a material or a spiritual need, when the soul turns to Me, looks at Me and says to Me: Jesus, You take over, and closes its eyes and rests in Me! You do not receive many graces because you insist on getting them by yourself; but instead you will receive numberless graces, when your prayer is in full reliance on Me. When you are in pain, and you pray that I may act, you want Me to act as you believe I should… you do not turn to Me; instead you want Me to submit to your ideas; you are like a sick person who does not ask the doctor for the cure, but tells him what the cure is to be. Don’t be like this, but pray as I taught you in the Our Father: Hallowed be your name, which means, may You be glorified in this need of mine; Your kingdom come, which means, everything may work toward Your Kingdom in us and in the world; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, which means, You direct it as it seems best to You for the good of our eternal and temporal life. When you truly tell me: Your will be done, which is the same then to say: Jesus, You take over, then I do intervene with all My omnipotence, and I will resolve every situation, even if there is no way out.
For example, do you see your sickness becoming worse instead of improving? Don’t become anxious, close your eyes and tell Me with trust: Your will be done, Jesus, You take over. I repeat it, I do take care, I intervene like a doctor, and even do a miracle if it is necessary. Does a patient become worse? Don’t be frightened, close your eyes and say: Jesus, You take over. I tell you again: I will indeed do it for you, and there is no medicine more powerful than my loving intervention. I take over only when you close your eyes. You never sleep, you want to appraise everything, to think, to delve into everything; you choose to rely on human power, or, worse, on men, trusting their intervention. This is what hampers My words and My will. Oh how much I long for this reliance in order to assist you, and how much I grieve to see your anxiety. Satan does just this: he gives you anxiety to remove Me from you and throw you into human initiative. Trust only in Me instead, rest in Me, rely on Me in everything. I do miracles in proportion to your complete reliance on Me, with no thought of yourself. I spread treasures of graces when you are in the most squalid poverty. If you have your own resources, even a few, or if you seek them, you are at the natural level, thus you follow the natural way of things, which often are dominated by Satan. Never a thinker or a philosopher has done any miracle, not even among the Saints; only he who relies on God does divine work.
When you see that things become complicated, say with your eyes closed: Jesus, I abandon myself to You; Jesus, You take over, and stop worrying about it, because your mind is sharp and for you it is difficult to distinguish evil; but trust in Me, and let your mind wander away from your thoughts. Do this for all your needs; all of you, do this, and you shall see great things, endless and silent miracles. I swear it on My Love. I shall indeed take over, you can be sure of it. Pray always with this loving confidence and you shall have great peace and great fruits, even when I choose for you the grace of immolating yourself for reparation and the love that entails suffering. Do you believe it is impossible? Shut your eyes and say with all your soul: Jesus, You take over. Don’t be afraid, I indeed will take care of you, and you shall bless My Name, in humility. A thousand prayers do not equal only one act of abandonment; don’t ever forget it. There is no better novena than this: Oh Jesus I abandon myself to You, Jesus, You take over.