By Father Alonzo Cox
As a college seminarian, I had the tremendous joy of teaching in the Faith Formation Program at Blessed Sacrament parish in Brooklyn. It was a large program and the students were excited and engaged in the classroom.
I was assigned to a 6th grade class for the year, which at the time was the year before they would receive the sacrament of Confirmation. One of our lessons was about faith and the importance of our faith. One student raised her hand and asked a question that continues to remain in mind all these years later.
She asked, “what exactly is faith?” She was extremely genuine with the question, not looking to cause a stir in the classroom or to be disruptive. She wanted to know exactly what faith is, because how can we talk about something if we are unable to define what it really is.
I think of her as we reflect upon our scripture passages for Mass this Sunday. The letter to the Hebrews speaks to us about the gift of faith.
The letter goes even a step further, by actually giving us a definition of faith. The letter begins by clearly stating, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Faith of course can be defined in many different ways, but this is a great start for us to reflect upon. As disciples and witnesses of Jesus, we continue to pray that our faith in him will grow and flourish. Faith is what allows us to grow in our relationship with the Lord.
Faith allows us to believe and to ultimately profess our sure and certain hope, that Jesus will come again in all of his glory and majesty to lead us to the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel that we must be ready, for we know neither the day nor the hour of his coming. The Lord is challenging us to “stay awake” and to not allow the distractions of this world to hinder our faith in him. Faith is a gift that we must safeguard and treasure. Anyone who comes to my office at the Rectory can immediately notice that I have a number of “personal treasures,” many of which have sentimental value.
None of those so-called treasures can be equated with my faith in the Lord Jesus. It is my faith that allows me to profess and proclaim, boldly and courageously that Jesus is coming to bring us to Our Father’s house.
As members of the mystical Body of Christ, we share our faith as a family, rooted in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. That is why we gather each Sunday as a community of believers, so that we may proclaim and live out our faith as brothers and sisters in Christ. We must never allow our faith to be shaken, even in times of sadness, fear, worry or despair. Our gift of faith can strengthen us to overcome any obstacle that may be thrown at us. Faith can truly move mountains.
What is faith? Faith is allowing minds and hearts to hear the word of God and to act upon it. Faith is trusting that the Lord walks with us, through good times and bad. Faith is believing that Lord will never abandon us. We are indeed blessed, as the psalmist proclaims, because God has chosen us to be his own.
Readings for Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
Father Cox is the pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant and coordinator for the vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns for the Diocese of Brooklyn.