August 11, 2013

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH


I have found a new way to go crazy in four easy steps:

1. In the New Testament look up every reference to the word “Faith”   (depending on the translation, about 245, not counting the word “believe”).

2. Do the same for “Hope” (about 60).

3. Find the passages in which “Faith” and “Hope” appear in the same verse (7).

4. Try to figure out the real difference between faith and hope.

Today’s second reading begins, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for,” which seems to indicate that hope comes before faith.

In the first reading, faith is described in terms of knowledge based on oaths, then courage and waiting. But isn’t that hope?

It gets worse.  The first verse in the second goes on to say that faith is “Evidence” —“of things not seen!” Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Over 450 years ago, a famous theologian wrote: “The question occurs to us; What difference is there between faith and hope? We find it difficult to see any difference.”

That didn’t stop him, of course, from trying to figure it out. That’s what theologians do. He came up with the following explanation, the best I have found.

Faith teaches, describes, directs. Hope exhorts us to be strong and courageous.

Faith concentrates on the truth. Hope looks to the goodness of God.

(Parenthesis: In the light of today’s Gospel and the phrase of the Creed, “he shall come to judge the living and the dead,” this distinction becomes clear. We believe that the judgment involves punishment for some, but we certainly don’t hope for punishment for ourselves!)

Faith is a judge. It judges errors. Hope is a soldier. It fights against tribulations and waits for better things to come in the midst of evil.

Faith is the beginning of Christian life before tribulation. Hope comes later and is born of tribulation.

Well, yes and no. It’s clear and logical, but can’t be applied in any absolute way to every single New Testament passage about Faith and Hope. The theologian, by the way, was Martin Luther.

The parenthesis was from St. Augustine, who lived over 1100 years before Luther. Augustine includes love in the equation. He writes, “There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither love nor hope without faith.”

The purpose of this inquiry—and of today’s gospel—is to remind us to live faith, live hope, live love.

So, what’s the difference? Here’s a clue to the final answer, in the form of another question. Which came first—the chicken or the egg?

Which comes first: faith, hope, or love? Just live them all, and you’ll never need to ask.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Also, I've heard faith or belief, and being easily translated as "trust", the greek word being essentially the same. Just to add another layer ;P
- Metro