FROM A READING FOR AUGUST 8, 19TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
'To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.' Hebrews 11:1

At a climactic moment in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof," Tevye, the main character, has had it with God. Not only is he experiencing huge family problems, but the Russian authorities are about to expel him and his fellow Jews from their village.

Looking to heaven, he asks, "Why don't you choose some other people for a change?" Being one of the Chosen People didn't always provide perks.

Tevye's question made me reflect on my own childhood questions. Though convinced my Catholic faith was the one, true faith, I'd still look at non-Catholic playmates and think, "They don't have to give up meat on Friday, never have to go to confession, don't commit a mortal sin if they sleep in on Sunday mornings. Why couldn't I have been born a Protestant?"

Jesus' thoughts
Luke's Jesus presents us with a different twist on the subject. He ends this Sunday's narrative on preparedness (Luke 12:32-48) by stating, "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."

Instead of looking at faith as a burden, He regards it as a trust we're expected to carry through on because God has faith in us.

In James Michener's Korean War epic, "The Bridges at Tokori," the commander reflects on the motivation and bravery of his pilots.

"Where do we get such men?" he asks. "They leave their ship and they do their job. Then they have to find this speck lost in the sea. And when they find it, they have to land on its pitching deck. Where do we get such men?"

The author of Hebrews and Luke could ask a similar question about the faithful in their communities: From where does the motivation come that inspires certain people to live total lives of faith?

The Hebrews author encourages his readers (Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19) to explore the historical roots of their faith - taking them, like our Wisdom writer (Wisdom 18:6-9), into the days of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs.

He provides the definition, "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." Had our faith ancestors not taken risks, we wouldn't have the faith we share today.

Our risks
We're called to take similar risks. Luke's Jesus is addressing all His followers - not just religious men and women - when He says, "Sell your belongings, and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach or moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."

Jesus is convinced his followers won't have to wait until death to unite with their treasure. This Sunday's Gospel begins, "Jesus said to his disciples, 'Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.'"

In the first three Gospels, when Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven, He's not referring to the place we're planning to inhabit after death. He's speaking about God working effectively in our lives right here and now.

When he asks His followers to make sacrifices and take risks in order to receive the kingdom, He's assuring them they'll see some good coming from those sacrifices and risks long before they die.

If I'd concentrated a little on God's kingdom as a child, perhaps I wouldn't have thought being Catholic was all that bad.