Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old--and Sarah herself was barren--because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, "as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore."
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, "It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you." He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead--and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
We are human beings, neither angels nor gods; we live on planet earth, not yet in our heavenly home. We deal with uncertain hopes and struggle with opposite tendencies within ourselves. But at our best, we still hold firmly to high ideals, implanted in us by nature and grace, and clarified in our Bible as the book of life. Today's readings invite us to reflect on the call to heroism through the lives of men and women who people the pages of the Bible. These were ordinary folk, with human weakness and temptations--yet lived with "confident assurance about things we do not see." These words from Hebrews identify a cloud of witnesses hovering over us and beckoning us also to be men and women of faith.
Ideals are more than statements in a book, even a book as sacred as the Bible; they go beyond mere philosophical deductions, for God is immediately and personally involved. Nathan, in God's name, told David, "You despised me in taking the wife of Uriah to be your wife." God is the origin of our ideals, so that in acting as we know we should, we seek God and love God; as on the contrary, when we hurt others, we repudiate and despise God. This is concretised in Jesus' words: "As often as you did it for one of my little ones, you did it for me".
To his frightened disciples Jesus said, "Do not be afraid!" He is with us always. We are not alone during the storms at sea, when buffeted by raging wind and by waves breaking against the boat of our lives. Jesus says to us, as to them on the lake, "Why are you so afraid? Why so little faith?" In him our inabilities are suffused with new strength and our eyes see again a vision of our heavenly home, that enables us while still on earth to forgive, to be patient, to remain faithful, and to put our ideals to work.
What a contrast between the calm of Jesus and the alarm of his disciples when the storm breaks out on the lake. He was lying in the stern of the boat, asleep, with his head on a cushion. The disciples were panicking and in their panic they woke and rebuked him, "Master, do you not care? We are going down." Jesus' sleep suggested his quiet trust in God, even in the midst of the storm. His disciples' panic suggested their lack of trust in God, their lack of faith. Jesus addresses them, "Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?" Jesus wanted them to have something of his own trust in God in the midst of the storm. We have all known storms of one kind or another in our own lives. We have been through very stormy times in the life of the church here in Dublin in recent times. Today's gospel invites us to trust that God is at hand, and at work, even in the midst of the most threatening of storms. We are asked to enter into Jesus' own trusting relationship with God, even when the ground seems to be opening up under us, whether as individuals or as a community of faith. Jesus was in the boat with the disciples; he is with us too as individuals and as a church. His communion with us, his nearness to us, helps us to imbibe something of his conviction that God will bring us to the other side, the far shore, in spite of storms along the way.