February 18, 2017
Saturday, Week Six, Year I
Hebrews 11:1-7; Psalm 145; Mark 9:2-13.
I will praise your name forever, Lord.
Unexpectedly, the liturgy ends this first set of readings from Genesis (to be resumed in Week 12) with a final reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (read during Weeks 1-4). Hebrews 11:1-7 was probably chosen because Genesis calls us to see the world through eyes of faith and this reading holds up as models for faith the three exemplary figures of the chapters we have read from Genesis: Abel, Enoch and Noah.
Faith is “conviction about things we do not see.” Genesis calls us to this from the very beginning. We understand through faith in what we read that “the worlds were created by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.”
Abel “by faith offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s, and for that he was acknowledged as upright.”
Enoch is less known to us, but he and Noah both “walked with God” (Genesis 5:22-24, 6:9). Because Genesis (ch. 5) says of each one on the list of Adam’s descendents except for Enoch, “Then he died,” Hebrews concludes that “Enoch was taken away without dying.” “Enoch walked with God; then he was seen no more, because God took him.” That was the fruit of his faith.
Scripture testifies that Enoch was “pleasing to God,” which is “impossible without faith.” Anyone who “comes to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Noah “by faith, warned about things not yet seen... built an ark that his household might be saved.” “His faith” — in an invisible warning without visible support — “was a judgment on the world, and he was able to claim the uprightness which comes through faith.”
By selecting this passage, the liturgy seems to be offering a practical response to all we have seen in Genesis. The message is, “Live by faith in the invisible truths you learn from God’s word.” What we see with our eyes can teach us much, especially if we know how to think, but not enough. In the story of creation, Genesis teaches us that “what is visible came into being through the invisible.” All of God’s words cast light on the visible by revealing what is invisible to us but visible to God.
To benefit from God’s words, however — and to “get something” from the Liturgy of the Word — we have to do three things: Read, Reflect and Respond. And we have to do all of these with faith. “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” But reading God’s word fosters faith. John ends his Gospel:
Jesus did many other signs... not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
If the Genesis story did nothing else, it should move us to praise. People who do not know the world was created have lost the capacity to praise anyone for it. You can’t praise blind chance (if you are philosophically naïve enough to believe in it). Undirected evolution can be intriguing but not praiseworthy. If everything began with an unexplained “big bang” posited by default, there is nothing we can truly “admire” in nature, and no one to praise, either for the product or the process. Genesis empowers us to say, I will praise your name forever, Lord.
Meditation: What does faith add to the visible world that moves you to praise?