Recently I read an article by a priest who told of his long and troubled journey to the priesthood. As part of his journey he spent a month working with Mother Teresa in her ‘house of the dying’ in Calcutta. He writes: “On the first morning I met Mother Teresa after Mass. She asked, ‘And what can I do for you?’ I asked her to pray for me. ‘What do you want me to pray for?’ I voiced the request I had borne for thousands of miles: ‘Pray that I have clarity.’”
“She said no. That was that. When I asked why, she announced that clarity was the last thing I was clinging to and had to let go of. When I commented that she herself had always seemed to have the clarity I longed for, she laughed: ‘I have never had clarity; what I’ve always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust.’”
Trust is another word for faith. Faith is an act of seeing our lives, our relationships in trust. Human bonding is entirely dependent on trust. Eric Erickson wrote a book on the seven stages of human growth. The very first stage is called basic trust, a basic trust in our own value, our own worth. We get this basic trust from our relationship with our parents and if we don’t, we walk with a limp the rest of our lives.
Real trust is one of the most delicate problems for people today. Relying on someone involves a risk, and we have been disappointed so often. We trust parents, we trust siblings, we trust friends, we trust co-workers, marriage vows are acts of trust, trust that we will live a future together.
Our bonding with God involves faith, trust that promises made will be promises kept. It involves trusting such words as “I have loved you with an everlasting love, I am with you always, though your sins be red as scarlet, they will be white as snow, come to me you who find life burdensome and I will refresh you.”
As we heard in our second reading, “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.” Then Paul gives us a whole series of examples of people God asked to trust Him. Paul’s best example is Abraham, our father in faith, our father in trust.
God asks a series of risky deeds from Abraham, he was to travel to a land he would somehow inherit; pass through great deserts and villages full of strangers; dwell in temporary shelters all the way; and most harsh of all, believe that his wife Sarah would at last conceive and give birth, even though they were both “as good as dead,” because of their old age. And of course it got worse, not better. Finally God ordered Abraham to make a bloody sacrifice of this precious son, born at last born to his old age. Kill him, God said. There was no clarity for Abraham, he trusted in the promises God made to him though he couldn’t imagine how they would ever come to pass.
Such trust does not still the chaos or dulls the pains of life nor provides a crutch so we might walk. As one of our hymns says, we walk by faith but not by sight. Life is a lot like a faith walk, we close our eyes, stretch out our hands into the hands of another trust that we will be safe.
We’ve all heard good people say,” I’ve lost my faith, how can a God who is supposed to be all love be so cruel, how can God allow this or that to happen.” This might be because of a misunderstanding of what their relationship with God is all about. We all have to remember that faith, trust in God does not ease confusion, dull the pain, redeem the times nor does it bring final clarity on this earth. Maybe we are hocked on clarity; we want all the answers now. It’s not going to happen.
Often good people have lost their faith, their trust in the church. They have been hurt, disappointed, disenchanted by a priest, bishop or fellow Catholics. They find some of the moral teachings of the church to be out of sync with the reality of their lives. We really can’t explain away or put down their experience for they are very real. We can’t offer them the clarity they seek. All we can do by prayer and by example is help them to dare to trust again.
In talking about faith, trust, I always go back to that gospel event when a distressed father asked Jesus to cure his son and Jesus asked him, “Do you believe, do you trust I can do this and the confused father answered ever so truthfully, Lord I trust, help the little trust I have.”
As we continue to celebrate this Eucharist we can pray for ourselves and for each other that Christ will help the little trust we have and ease our need for clarity.