how far are you willing to go?

The Late President Ronald Reagan was once advised that “The Russians like to talk in proverbs. It would be nice of you to know a few. You are an actor—you can learn them very quickly.” One of the first soon became his signature phrase whenever he discussed U.S. relations with the Soviet Union: “Doveryai, no proveryai”, “Trust, but verify.”

In God We Trust

In God We Trust

Trust seldom comes easy or quickly, even more so today it would seem. Will Rogers once quipped, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute” and so to it is with trust. These days the virtue of trust has become rarer than hen’s teeth.

Without the virtue of trust all are suspect; safety and security casualties of paranoia and fear; and the enemy includes all but the self. Truth, that is to say, irrefutable, objective verity, must be present for there to be trust. But truth is now to be construed as subjective and relative, it is nothing more than whatever one wishes or believes it to be.

Human bonding, the desire to form a communion of community, is entirely dependent on trust. Because of the severe paucity of this holy virtue we deceive ourselves: we substitute for it overloaded schedules, we invent excuses, and then we rationalize why nothing ever seems to work out. Everything and everyone has become disposable and replaceable; without trust long-term, permanent relationships must inevitably fail.

Trust presumes risk. Where there is no risk, trust becomes a non sequitur. Risk-aversion has become a cultural mantra. The elimination of any and all risk, under the guise of “public safety,” has become a campaign to be won, no matter the cost.  Every aspect of our lives must be scrutinized and made safe from the tyranny of risk, and the price demanded is our ability and willingness to trust.

To trust means to have faith, to believe in someone, and to believe in their promises and in their fidelity to those promises.

Consider how far Abraham was willing to go, how much he believed in God’s fidelity. God asked much of Abraham: asking him to travel far to a distant land, across difficult and treacherous terrain, and to believe that, even though their old age made them “as good as dead,” he and Sarah would have “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.”

Imagine how great Abraham’s faith was tested when God ordered him to sacrifice the son which God had promised them in their old age! This was not a question of obedience to God but a matter of trust. Abraham made his decision to do as God commanded because he “thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.”1

Saint Paul tells us “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. … By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.”2 In the first part, Paul uses two Greek words, hypostasis and elenchus, which have been subject of some dispute as to how they should be translated.

Hypostasis usually means ‘substance,’ or ‘being’ as used in Hebrews 1:3, or ‘reality’ as found in Hebrews 3:14; in this instance however it connotes something more subjective, and so ‘realization’ has been chosen rather than ‘assurance’. In a similar way, elenchus is normally interpreted as ‘proof,’ but here it is used in an objective sense and so ‘evidence’ has been used rather than the transferred sense of ‘(inner) conviction.3 While this may be of some significant merit to Biblical scholars and linguists, it is of little importance to our understanding of what Paul intended to tell us. It may indeed be easier to understand if we apply the usual usage to it: “Faith is the assurance of (belief in) what is hoped for and our (inner) conviction of things not seen.” Either way, it is through faith that we may come to know with confidence all that God has promised: eternal life with him. We must trust in him, believe in him, and hope in him.

The evidence of God’s fidelity can be seen in all that is visible to us. The universe (all that is visible) we know and believe came to be, “ordered by the word of God,” by his willing it all into existence; his will and his alone caused all things to be.

Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote:  “On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. xv), ‘Not because they are, does God know all creatures spiritual and temporal, but because He knows them, therefore they are.’ For the knowledge of God is to all creatures what the knowledge of the artificer is to things made by his art.” God created the world by thinking it into being, by knowing it into existence.4

If through faith we realize what is objectively true, that is, we come to know and accept the truth which is manifested in God, then we must necessarily and rightly place our complete trust in his promises, his covenants. This ought to be a natural and obvious understanding and yet the modern world rebels against such a dogmatic attitude. It asks how anyone and most specifically the Catholic Church can justifiably claim to have real and certain knowledge—as opposed to mere opinion or personal belief—of objective truth and objective reality, especially when it pertains to God.

Aquinas refutes the ideological premise that reality is either subjective or relative through two arguments. First, if all of reality is subjective and relative then all of science must necessarily be reduced to a single science: psychology. For if nothing is except what the mind conceives then there can be no study (science) outside the soul. His second argument states that if there is no objective reality, then what the ancients had maintained, “Whatever seems, is true,” must necessarily result in contradictories that are true simultaneously.

Kreeft explains that this is what logicians call a “reduction to absurdity”: if this subjective theory were true, absurd consequences would follow. And yet, as he continues

“the modern mind no longer considers it absurd to reduce all sciences to psychology or to say that truth = nothing more than whatever seems true to you; that appearance cannot be distinguished from reality with certainty, only as opinion.

“This is an extremely useful philosophy for two classes of persons: salesmen and demons. (The Devil invented advertising; he founded the first Apple store back in the Garden of Eden.)”

Jesus tells us “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” We are all servants of God, some good and some not, some faithful and others who are not. Jesus admonishes us that those who place their faith and trust in the him and are prepared for when he should arrive (and we know not the day nor the hour of his coming) will be blessed. Those who are unprepared, who have considered only their own needs and desires and have not attended to the needs and desires of those who are subject to them will suffer cruelly when the Lord says to them “Depart from me, all you evildoers.”

Parents who do not attend to the needs of their children or who allow them to misbehave or bully other children are bad stewards. Managers who promote or give raises not on merit but for revenge or favoritism are bad stewards. Those who are willing to lie or cheat to attain a stature or office are bad stewards.

Being a good and faithful servant is hard work. It may even call for suffering and pain but as Jesus tells us: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” But for those who trust in the Lord, the keys to the kingdom of God will be theirs.

Homily # 081
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time — Cycle C
Wisdom 18:6-9
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-9
Luke 12:32-48

1 Heb 11:11-12.
2 Heb 11:1-3.
3 NAB, footnotes on Hebrews 11, p. 151.
4 Peter Kreeft, Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas Aquinas, 16, Ignatius Press, Dec 15, 2014.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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