Today, May 20, is Day Seven of our Pentecost Novena — or nine days of prayer — led by Bishop Earl Boyea with today’s meditation dwelling upon another of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Faith in Action. Here is what Bishop Boyea has to say:
He saddled his pack animal. He split some wood for the sacrifice. He told the servants to wait while he and his son went on to worship God. The boy, Isaac, carried the wood and he, Abraham, carried the knife. The long silent journey was broken by Isaac simply asking where was the sheep for the sacrifice. His father no doubt sadly replied that God would provide. His son must have known. And we are told, “And the two of them walked on together.” When they arrive, Abraham is like a sleep-walker as he builds an altar of stones, sets out the wood, and then binds his son and places him on the wood and raises the knife to sacrifice him. The voice from heaven stops him and the test is over. Abraham had shown his faith as an act of trust in God.
We need to be clear what we mean by this term, faith. Of course, all of us received the gift of faith in our baptism. What St. Paul means when he says that faith is the fruit of the Holy Spirit is that the faith of our Baptism needs to show itself and the Holy Spirit helps us to do this.
What is this faith in action meant to be? To answer this we need to know a bit more about Abraham and Isaac. Remember that God had called Abraham from his home country of Ur in present-day Iraq and brought him to the Holy Land where God promised Abraham thousands of descendants and all that land. Abraham believed in God and thus did what God asked of him. However, Abraham grew older and he and his wife, Sarah, did not have a son. Finally, in old age, God gave them Isaac. Isaac was the only way that the promises of God would be fulfilled. When he looked at Isaac, Abraham saw his future. However, God wanted Abraham only to look to God to see that future. Thus, God put Abraham to this test and told him to sacrifice his only, beloved son, Isaac.
St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans (4:20-21) makes this comment: “No distrust made [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”
How will the Spirit help us to live out this kind of faith? It seems to me there are three ways. First, the Holy Spirit will help us to be obedient to God’s will in our lives. Both times when God calls out to Abraham, he responds, “Here I am.” Abraham was always ready to do God’s will, even though he could not figure out what it all meant. The Holy Spirit will help us to hear God’s will in our lives, and then give us the courage to do it. That is the obedience of faith. We have this obedience of faith, because we trust that God is God and as God, God knows always what is best for us.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit helps us to take seriously, very seriously, our relationship with God. God does not just want a piece of us. God wants all of us—our whole heart and our whole soul and our whole mind. God does not want us to have other gods or idols in our life. We are bound to God alone. That is why Jesus calls us his friends. Friendship with Jesus means that our faith is not just for Sundays, but is a relationship with God in Jesus, a relationship which is total.
Thirdly, like Abraham, we trust that God will see us through everything, no matter how difficult living as a Christian may be, no matter how many contradictions we may meet in our world and society, no matter the demands that are placed on us. After all, Jesus faced death due to his love for the Father and his love for us. That trust in the Father led to the Resurrection from the Dead. Abraham too faced the death of all his dreams and hopes for many descendants and for the wide Holy Land. And, in a sense, God raised up his son, Isaac, from apparent death. The Holy Spirit will help us face any difficulty with confidence and trust that God will see us through. When all appears lost, we keep going.
Sisters and brothers, the result of this great gift will be the ability to live out our faith in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ. So take the leap! Do not be afraid! God will be faithful to you! Be faithful to him in return.