Faith in Jesus transforms our lives

A young person from one of our Youth Apostle programs explained his faith journey this way: "When I was young, I went to church with my family but my faith in God was not very important to me. In high school, I came to know Jesus personally through my youth group and my life has not been the same since. Jesus changed my life. Now I can't imagine my life without Him."

Faith in Jesus transforms our lives. Faith in Jesus is the fruit of a personal encounter with Him. Faith grows out of an experience of Jesus' love, truth and tender mercy. Faith is trusting in the bottomless goodness of God. Faith increases by being tested, refined in the fire like silver and gold. It is this last reality that I want to ponder today.

The letter to the Hebrews recalls the faith of Abraham, one of the greatest figures in the Old Testament. He is often referred to as "our father in faith." This passage focuses on three moments when Abraham's faith was tested by God.

First, God asks Abraham, who is advanced in years and quite settled in his homeland to pack up his family and vast estate and begin a journey to an unknown destination. God promises to direct him along the way but refuses to inform Abraham of the goal of this journey. Abraham uproots his family and obediently does what is asked, placing an incredible trust in the Lord. It is a beautiful act of faith.

Second, God promises Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens and the sand on the seashore. However, Abraham and Sarah are both barren and well beyond

childbearing years. Abraham believes in God and places his trust in the Lord. Sure enough, they conceive and Sarah gives birth to a son named Isaac nine months later. The Lord proves once again that He is faithful to his promises and most worthy of our trust.

The third act of faith is arguably the hardest. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This must have seemed completely unreasonable to Abraham. Isaac was the only means to fulfill God's promise of being the father of countless generations. Additionally, the request contradicts natural law. In our day, this request seems absurd, but child sacrifice was common in the pagan world in which Abraham lived. Plus, Abraham was one of the first great figures of the OT. He lived at the start of God's very gradual revelation about who He is and His plan for our lives. Abraham lived well before Moses and the Ten Commandments.

In the end, God does not allow Abraham to go through with the sacrifice. God put Abraham to the ultimate test and once again, Abraham proved willing to follow the Lord, even when the request did not make sense from a human perspective.

Another young person from one of our Youth Apostle programs broke his wrist and was unable to play lacrosse his junior year of high school. In sports, solid play during your junior year is critical if you want to play in college. He was frustrated and a bit upset with God. The injury enabled him to get more involved with the parish youth ministry as a leader on a retreat and a weeklong work camp that spring and summer. At the end of the summer, he admitted in faith that his relationship with God was really strong and bringing him great joy; he felt he would not be as close to God if the injury had not afforded more time for prayer and involvement with the church. God had tested his faith. He went on to play lacrosse at the Naval Academy.

Faith in Jesus transforms our lives. Faith gives depth and meaning to our existence. Faith deepens when it is tested by God. Lord, increase my faith.

Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016