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I was with one of my confreres while he was unpacking his belongings. He pulled out a bottle of liquor and said, “One of my friends in the parish gave me this as a going away present; this is very good stuff.” I said, “That doesn’t tell me anything.” So I asked him, “If I were to order a shot of this same stuff at a restaurant, how much would it cost?” He said, “Easily twenty-five or thirty dollars.” I said, “How could such a little bit be worth so much.” He said, “It is aged; it sat in a barrel for a long time.” I said, “So basically, you are saying that you are paying storage fees.” He said, “Something like that.”
I mention this dialogue because we ask how valuable we are to God. In other words, are we really good at being a Christian? What is our worth? One way we can know how valuable we are to God is to see how long we can wait for the Lord. In scripture, one of the best examples of waiting is the Israelites in Egypt. They waited four-hundred years for the Lord to deliver them. In fact, God said to Moses, “I have heard the cry of my people in Egypt for four-hundred years, and I will send you to them.” Four-hundred? This is the same guy who created the universe in six days. Why, has he been too busy To understand the four-hundred year wait, I will have to walk you through the ancient world.
If you want to build a city in the ancient world, you will need three essential things. (1)You will need a place that has water, (2) a place that has some natural protection against enemies, and (3) you will need a place that is near a major highway so people will drop by and spend some money. Jerusalem, for example, is a great place for a city. It has a natural spring that offers plenty of water; it is accessible to everyone because is it smack dab in the middle of the 12 tribes of Israel. It is also the first city you come to after a long trek from the east. Finally, it is built on a hill. Enemies will think twice about attacking a city build on high ground. Jerusalem is a great location, but what is the best location for a city in the ancient world? The answer: Egypt. Egypt has the Nile River, water front property along the Mediterranean Sea makes it a convenient place for trade, and Egypt is protected by thousands of miles of the worst desert on the plant. No one is going to trek across a murderous desert to attack a superpower. So basically the Egyptians were left unchallenged… until one day. Somewhere in Scandinavia—Denmark maybe—there was a group of very strong, determined men who migrated south. They beat every army and plundered every city along the way. When they came to Egypt, they were undefeated. It was exciting to see two undefeated nations go at it. Guess who won? The Egyptians. Why? Because they were the most powerful nation, the world has ever known. I write about this so that you will appreciate what happens next. Unarmed slaves, the Israelites, beat the Egyptians. The improbability is staggering. You may say, “Yes, but the Israelites got help from God. This is very true, but my question is this: Why did God favor the Israelites? Why did God help them? Were there no other underdogs that needed divine assistance at the time? Answer: Four-hundred years. Four hundred years of praying, four-hundred years of perseverance, four-hundred years of never giving up on God, four-hundred years of waiting for God to deliver them. They never gave up on God no matter what they suffered. Like a fine, aged wine, they became very valuable to God. God favored them because he had a reason to favor them.
There was a woman, hemorrhaging for twelve years, who went to Jesus. While everyone in the crowd was on their tip-toes to get a glance at Jesus, the woman got on her hands and knees to touch the hem of his garment. She was then cured. Right away Jesus tells her that it was her great faith that saved her. Where did she get great faith? Did she get lucky and do the right thing at the right time. No. It was because of the twelve years, twelve years of believing, twelve years of giving up, ever. Great faith is aged with time.
Lent is no fifteen minutes. It is forty days. Have you ever said, “I don’t know how much more I can take?” If you have, then that is exactly the moment that makes great faith. Great faith means no matter what, you will never give up on God, ever.Back to All Homilies