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Spirituality of the Readings
19th Sunday of Ordinary Time C
August 11, 2019
John Foley, SJ
Patience, People


Trust is difficult for us today. Relying on someone else involves a risk, and we have been disappointed so often.

Yet human bonding is entirely dependent on trust, wise trust.

In the modern world we use substitutes for human bonding and certainly for trust. We overwork, we overeat, we live for parties and pleasure; we invent formulas such as “quality time” in order to fit family and children into our loaded schedules; and in the United States we simply get rid of a husband or wife or vocation that no longer pleases us.

Abraham relied completely on the steady reality of God’s loving kindness.

Is there any room left for trust? In the Gospel, Jesus says “be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Jesus is prescribing here a two-way relationship with God.

The Master has gone away, relying and depending on the loyalty of his servants. They will fulfill their role by continuing to keep order and by being ready to welcome their Lord back at any moment.

Not so. They are eating, drinking, dancing, forgetting all about the duties of love. They say, “he is nowhere to be seen, he is probably staying overnight at his family’s house, so we are FREE! Let’s have a ball!”

So they are throwing away relationship and trust. Instead of a human and Godly bonding, they are isolating themselves into selfish indulgences, a “freedom” to cut themselves off sharply from their master (and everyone else).

Do you and I ever break our trust with God, to whatever degree?

Let us compare ourselves with a surprising example: Abraham in the Second Reading.

There God asks a series of risky deeds from Abraham. Travel to a land that you will somehow inherit. Pass through great deserts and villages full of strangers; dwell in temporary shelters all the way; and harshest of all, believe that your wife Sarah will at last conceive and give birth, even though, in your old age, you are both “as good as dead,” as Paul puts it.

It gets worse, not better. God orders Abraham to make the bloody sacrifice of his precious son, Isaac, born at last to the couple’s ancient age. Offer to me his death, God said.

So much for trust, wouldn’t you say? We cannot not trust an order like this, of all things. Save yourself and your children!

Yet God had given a promise. He had said that Abraham was going to have “descendants as numerous as the sands on the seashore” by Sarah. Many people think that in this scene God was simply asking for obedience from Abraham. But in fact he was asking that Abraham remember and rely on the love and the promise that God had shown over all the years. Our reading tells us he “thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.”

Even though God’s command seemed (and surely was) completely impossible and even outrageous, Abraham relied completely on the steady reality of God’s loving kindness.

Reader: for better or for worse, this is the way we too are led toward bonding with God. We are to try our best to stay faithful even if the entire world gives in to greed and disregard for others. We are told to be present to those whom Jesus loves; to remember God’s fidelity to us; …

to remember love.

To return trust for love.

Isn’t it worth the risk?
John Foley, SJ

Father Foley can be reached at:
Fr. John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ, is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go