Fourth Sunday of Advent 2018

Note: Due to early bulletin deadlines, this column does not appear in the Dec. 23, 2018 bulletin.

“He shall stand firm and shepherd His flock by the strength of the LORD!”

{Stewardship of Treasure II}

Who do you trust? There are people in our lives that we have learned to trust because we have experienced them as being trustworthy—they keep their word, they follow through on promises, etc. Because of our experience of them and how they have responded, we trust them.  There are other people in our lives that we don’t trust because the opposite has been our experience. They have repeatedly let us down, etc. If we have to rely on them for something, we tend to have a “plan B” ready to go because of the predictability of their failing to produce. It’s pretty common for us to have these two very different experiences in regards to trust.

But the big question is: how does the Lord Jesus fit into this for you? Do you trust Him unreservedly, or do you trust Him but also have a “plan B” ready? The problem with the “plan B” approach is that the Scripture makes it clear that “when you seek Me, you will find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13)  Having a “plan B” makes it pretty clear that we are not seeking Him with all our heart, that we are holding something back, just to be on the safe side.

Initially in our relationship with the Lord Jesus, that seems to make a certain amount of sense. After all, we gradually come to trust people as we get to know them better and discover them as trustworthy. If we are just getting to know the Lord Jesus, it is perfectly ok to have to also grow in our trust in Him. How exactly do we do that?

Another way to look at trust is to look at faith. Another way to say, “who do you trust” is to say, “who do you have faith in?” For the Jewish people, this idea of faith as choosing to trust in the Holy One of Israel was a practical reality. Faith was not simply something you had, it was something you did. For example, Abraham’s actions in terms of the sacrifice of Isaac were not just a theoretical reality!  So, how do we grow in our having faith in the Lord Jesus?

As with any relationship, the more we know the person, the more we trust (or don’t trust) them. One of the reasons why the Scripture and the Church are so insistent on the importance of us reading the Word of God is for precisely that reason—that we would come to know Him better so that we can have even greater faith in Him. Reading the Scriptures is not just a checkmark reality in our spirituality, i.e., just one more thing we do because we are supposed to. In fact, it is a vital foundation for our being able to trust in the Lord Jesus and His actions in our lives. Faith (our ability to trust) comes from hearing the Word of God, as St. Paul points out to us.

When we heed His advice to make His Word our home, we see His actions, we see how trustworthy He is, and we subsequently grow in our ability to trust Him—with our lives, our families, our future. This trust is vital because it directly impacts how we respond to the promises He makes to us, like, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matt 6:33) As we seek His Kingdom first, and we experience Him concretely being there for us, we grow in our ability to trust Him. As that happens we can echo Mary’s comment: “Be it done to me according to Your will.” We can move from being the owners of all we possess to being more the stewards of what we have received from Him. Since the steward has a more conscious awareness that everything he or she has is a gift, using that gift as the Master intends is a much easier reality than if everything is treated as simply our own possession.

As Christmas approaches, now is a good time to reflect on these issues: how much do I trust the Lord Jesus? How much do I make His Word my home precisely so that I may grow in that trust? How much do I function as a steward of His goods, using them appropriately to build the Kingdom? We all need to grow closer to Him; Advent is a great time of grace to do it! Let us yield to its grace! Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come! — Fr. Ed Fride