The Gift of Faith, from Frederick, Maryland
I have prepared these words to you well in advance, since I am away this week visiting exotic Frederick, Maryland to do some cycling and sightseeing...a rather tame vacation, I must be getting old. This is exciting: from May 10 to May 20, I plan to ride 100k (62.1 miles) four times, so 240+ miles in 10 days… that’s a big goal for me but I think (and hope!) I am ready for it. May the Lord be my constant companion.
Given the upcoming changes in our parish life, it is worthwhile to reflect on the gift of faith. No one likes change, no one. A new pastor who is still getting the lay of the land enjoys change least of all! But I entrust our whole parish into the hands of Mother Mary. I place my life of service as pastor into the Heart of Jesus. We have faith that God knows the plan and that we need only take the next best step, make the next best decision, in prayer, with discernment, and with faith that the Holy Spirit animates, guides and sustains the mission of the Church, including our local church of OLPH.
The Scriptures teach us that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things unseen” (Heb 11:1). An easy chapter & verse to remember, but a hard verse to understand. Faith is the stuff of longing, belief in someone just over the horizon, the clarity that with difficulty we may possess the true yearning of the human heart: God. Perhaps it is helpful to note that faith terminates in sight. The object of our faith in this life will become the One we behold for all eternity. In heaven, we will see God. On earth, we have faith in God, whom we do not see.
Life’s cliche teaches us that faith is not faith until it is all we are holding on to. So why does it seem that when our faith feels weak, it is shaken? A very important question. Haven’t you noticed that? When life proceeds normally, we often do not question our faith, however, when life goes sideways, our faith comes into focus, perhaps because we are clenching our teeth, or holding our breath, or struggling to make sense of what the Lord is doing.
And at least for me, when my faith is tested (shaken), God is reminding me of who I really need to cling to. When life proceeds normally, I cling to many different things. Life gets cluttered. My priorities may become confused. I begin to trust in creatures rather than placing my whole self into the arms of my loving Father. And as the picture grows more comfortable, it gets more cluttered. Finally, a crisis of faith, some emergency, an illness, a change of life, takes center stage and causes me to reevaluate the object of my trust. Have I been trusting in the Lord, or in myself, a possession, a friend? On whom have I really relied? And if the answer is not immediately… THE LORD(!) then hindsight teaches me that the crisis was a cause to really reexamine the substance of my hope.
I wish I had all the answers… wait… but then I wouldn’t need faith! Yet faith in the Lord whom we serve and long to be with forever is what keeps my compass pointing at the North Star! Without true faith in Christ, I cannot navigate this life. I am lost. With renewed faith in the One True God, clinging to the object of my hope, the richness of life - even when shaken by change - comes more sharply into view.
May we all pray the words of the man seeking healing for his son: “Lord I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Lord, grant me and my people a deep and pure faith in YOU.