05 November 2010

Space Mountain and Faith

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
            The first roller coaster on which I rode, at least that I can remember, was Space Mountain in Disney World.  And I remember being a bit nervous.  My parents had warned me about how fast it was, but it seemed like a rite of passage to actually go on the ride, now that I was tall enough, and brave the giant monster.
            What I hated the most, though, was that the roller coaster was in the dark, and not knowing where I was going.  Once I got on the ride, I was looking ahead to try to see the little lights that lined the rails of the coaster, in order not to be surprised by where the ride as taking a dip, or making a sharp turn.  I wanted to know exactly what was ahead.
            Today, our second reading and Gospel focused on faith.  Faith is a gift from God whereby we believe things that we cannot see, or, as the Letter to the Hebrews states, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  But the frustrating part can be that growing in faith is really growing in darkness, as a wise Archabbot once told me while I was on retreat.  If faith is the evidence of things unseen, then the more we grow in faith, the less we see. 
            This can be hard for us, because we like to know where we are going.  We like safety.  We tend not to like surprises, especially when it comes to major life events.  We would rather be in control, or at least be able to the see the tracks of the rollercoaster of life, rather than going up and down and sideways in the dark.
            But our confidence, and the reason we have faith, comes from the one in whom we place our trust and faith.  If we place our faith in God, then we can be at ease, because, as Jesus said in our Gospel today, “‘Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.’”  No matter how high we may rise, or how low we may fall, or how much we get tossed from side to side, the Father is always there with us, loving us, and helping us to grow closer to him.
            But faith can be hard.  It can be hard, especially for those of us who are Type A personalities, who like to be in control of everything, rather than to let God be the Master of our life.  Sometimes our life can be like the disciples being tossed around in the boat in the middle of the sea, and it seems like Jesus is sleeping.  At those moments we cry out like the disciples, “Master, don’t you care that we’re about to drown?”  But Jesus is with us, and so we’re not going to sink or drown.  He has control of everything and is helping us to grow closer to Him by giving us opportunities to put more faith in Him.
            Of course, it still is not easy.  And it’s especially not easy in our own very skeptical age.  We can be like the Doubting Thomas who refuses to believe without proof.  We are so used to proving things by science, that we can start to think that if we can’t prove it, then it’s not real; if I can’t feel it, then it doesn’t really matter.  And yet, it is at these times that we most need faith. 
            Look at Abraham.  By faith he left modern-day Iraq and took his whole family to follow God, who called him to go to the land of Canaan.  And then he had faith in God who promised that He would multiply Abraham’s offspring like the stars in the sky, even though Sarah was sterile.  And then he had faith in God when, even with the promise God had made, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son, his beloved Isaac, because Abraham had faith that if God could raise up a son from parents who were as good as dead, then he could certainly create a great nation even without Isaac.
Or look at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.  As it turns out, from the time she founded her order until the day she died, she was called to have a great deal of faith, because God rarely seemed or felt close to her.  But, she had faith that the same Jesus who had called her to quench His thirst by serving the poorest of the poor would not abandon her or the order she founded.  And how was she rewarded for her faith?  The same way Abraham was: “[they] acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth” and so they were prepared for heaven, their true home, by trusting in God, even in the toughest times.
The fact is that the closer we get to God, the more we have to put our trust in Him, and trust less in our own visions and plans.  We can’t be so concerned with seeing the tracks ahead of us, but must trust that, even in the darkness when God seems the farthest away, He is still quite near, and is giving us the grace, His inner life, to help us to grow so that we can accept His gift of salvation.  In the times when there is a sharp turn in life, we must trust that God is our safety and security, and the closer we cling to Him in prayer, the safer and more secure we will be.  Let our prayer be the prayer of St. Faustina, who communicated to us the great devotion of Divine Mercy: “Jesus, I trust in you.  Jesus I trust in you.  Jesus I trust in you.”