Monday, March 19, 2012

Seeing and Understanding

This was a weekend in which I had many thoughts about my faith --- or lack of it. I couldn’t sit down at home (or at mom’s) and not have my mind wander, and I couldn’t sit in the church and not look at the altar, always asking the question: Why? And then asking it yet again, only this time of myself: Why do you need to know “why”?

My friend remains in the hospital, seriously ill. Maybe her plight and that of her family were underlying my thoughts. I did think some about death, and some of the readings this weekend reminded me of the uncertainties in my life, like this from Psalm 118:

Open to me the gates of holiness:
I will enter and give thanks.
This is the Lord’s own gate
where the just may enter.

That’s a good example of my thoughts. In my mind I might say “I will” enter heaven, as if it is all a done deal because I wish it to be so, but then I am reminded that it is only that the just “may” enter heaven ---- it is by no means a done deal. I think on my hand in these matters and my wishes, but it is so easy to forget that God has a hand in these matters also.

Reading the scriptures about the flight of Moses and the Jews from Egypt, I recall the Egyptian army which was wiped out by the flood of the Red Sea --- weren’t there some good men among that large army? What were they thinking about the hand of God then? Were they asking: Why? And what of the Jews in the desert, all received manna as an answer to prayers --- weren’t there some bad men among that large people? What were they thinking about the need for prayer? And what about my prayers for health, knowing all men must die --- why pray for health?

Amen, Amen I say to you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain, but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (Jn 12:24)

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. (Ps 23:6) ------ Oh, Really???

In Sunday’s gospel I heard the blind man responding to Jesus’ question about his wants: “Lord that I might see.” But most of us can’t see, we can’t see the future, and we can’t even clearly see today, and what it all means in the will of God. The former-blind man was later brought to the Pharisees in the temple who demanded to know how he became able to see. They demanded to understand. We are so like those Pharisees; we demand to know why sorrow enters our lives and won’t go away, and act like we understand why blessings enter our lives --- as if we deserve them. But we don’t understand either. That is where faith enters, and as we also read in that same Gospel Jesus later asked of the blind man another question: Did he believe in Jesus? And his response was: “Lord, I believe.”

That’s the answer we need to be able to give, sincerely, to all of our questions about “why”. We have to be able to accept that we may never know “why” many things happen in this life, but accept that the answer is within the will and mercy of God. For most of us, however, this is a very big leap of faith.

At every Catholic mass the host is raised heavenward and the priest says the words of Jesus: “This is My Body.” Then I thank Him for his great sacrifice for us --- and for me. And then I also recall the sacrifice of Jesus’ heavenly Father, who gave up His Son’s life for me, a Father sacrificing his son for me. And there also, although I pray words of thanks, I think in my heart are the words: “Lord, I do not understand.” How could anyone (much less God) offer such a sacrifice for me?

Sometimes I wonder how well I am leading my life. Am I doing enough; am I doing it well enough. And I try to consider ways I might do things better, even pray better --- that better prayers might somehow mean that God will answer my prayers more often, and, I think, that I might understand His answers. How foolish I am. The good Egyptians dying under the Red Sea’s flood, the Jews lost and starving in the desert, and me in my sorrows: we all want to understand. I want to know with some assurance that this is part of God’s plan, as if my wisdom were equal to His and I could understand all of creation and life --- and death.

How foolish I am. What I need is the faith of that former blind man, who was healed in a way no one could understand, and yet he said: “I believe”.

Thank you, O my Father, for giving us Your Son;
And leaving us Your Spirit
‘Til the work on earth is done.

There is a Redeemer, hymn by Melody Green

Today, Monday March 19, is the feast day of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus Christ, God’s own son. Entrusted to care for His own son, certainly God had confidence in Joseph’s faith and fidelity. So let’s look at that faith of Joseph: He agrees to take this declared virgin, Mary, in marriage and care for her, and then what happens? She promptly turns up pregnant! So where was the faith of Joseph at that time? It didn’t take him long to decide to divorce Mary --- because, he thought, he had to take actions into his own hands, “to make sure things got done right.” Where was his faith? It was only after an angel appeared to him and assured him that this was part of God’s plan that Joseph agreed to go on.

Even St. Joseph, this specially chosen man had, at least at times, weak faith in God. But that shouldn’t surprise us, the Bible is riddled with stories of people with weak faith, good men who couldn’t trust God’s help would be there for them in times of trial, until they actually heard His voice or saw His action. So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that we too fail in our trust at times of great trial. We too ask God to speak to us, to explain: “Why?” We too request miracles, “Lord, that I might see.”

I honestly think that some of us have a faith so weak that we want Jesus along behind us, on a leash, sitting up at our every command before we will believe in Him. “Make his bad weather go away, Lord --- please?” “Punish that sinner there, that evil person ---- please?” “Make my friend well, so that he can live and make me happy --- please?” And even if we had a God such as that at our every command, I think some of us would still be displeased that we didn’t understand each and every thing He did: “Look at that mess you made. Shame on you!” Some of us wouldn’t be content unless we were in control of God entirely ---- and what kind of faith in Him would that be?

I can answer that question. I think that is the kind of faith that Satan has.

Joseph, this very important man chosen by God for a hugely important task, is barely mentioned in the Scriptures. Like him, we too are uniquely created, with a purpose for our life, and are uniquely loved by God. How much notice do we need? How little faith do we have?

We all will have many pains in our life, and God will console us in our sorrows, but as He wills, not as we demand. That is faith; it’s a gift, which we can choose to accept. Or not.

Faith is trusting in God to care for us. He gave manna, food from heaven, to the Jews in the desert --- but note: not until after they ran out of the flower from Egypt. God expects us to do what we can with our talents, before He would provide His Divine Providence. But it is always there. We CAN and MUST have faith in that, even if we sometimes fail as the saints did, and even if we sometimes find it hard and do not understand.

For above all these things and all these worries (and this blog) are His words: Do Not Be Anxious.


  1. Very good post! I agree, Joseph was not mentioned much, or described in detail, but even when he did not understand the will of God, he obeyed anyways! That is what counts. Just like Jesus said, it is not those that say I will and then don't, but those that sometimes say I won't, but then do anyways.

    I also like the word TRUST almost better than Faith, because when you TRUST the LORD, then you have faith! You trust the LORD to be on your side, to watch out for you, and you also trust that whatever happens, even the bad stuff, is for your ETERNAL GOOD! So often we only look at the temperal good, and forget that we are not living for the temperal, but for the Eternal! ♥♥♥

  2. Right on, Cathy. Right on.

    Today is the celebration of the Annunciation, Jesus' real birthday, when He first became man. I haven't had cake in a long time; maybe this is a good day to celebrate, and for at least a while forget the hard things. And I'll think some on Mary's faith, and Joseph's, and perhaps remind myself of the joys they found.