Monday in the 14th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong & Companions, Martyrs of China
Awakening to Faith
Readings: Genesis 28:10-22a; Psalms 91:1-2, 3-4, 14-15ab; Matthew 9:18-26
More likely than not many of us know how difficult it is to find God. It is also likely that we might envy the various characters in the bible – in both Old and New Testament alike – for whom finding and speaking with God seems to come so naturally. Take the characters in today’s readings, for example. Jacob has only to sleep on a stone pillow in a special place, and he experiences God making wonderful promises to him in a dream. The synagogue official has only to tell Jesus about his dead daughter, and immediately Jesus sets out with his disciples and raises her to life. The woman with the haemorrhage has only to touch the fringe of his cloak and she is healed of her affliction. It all seems so easy. But is it really?
On the one hand, we can truly say, yes. Yes, it is easy to find God. It’s easy because, as these bible stories show us, God wishes to be found. Indeed, it is God who constantly seeks us out. It is God who seeks out Jacob even as he flees from his family home after stealing the blessing that was meant for his brother Esau. And, in Jesus, God continues to seek out the descendants of Jacob. In Jesus, God enters into their lives to free them from the bonds of sin and death. Yes, it is easy to find God, simply because it is actually God who is looking for us.
Even so, there is also another side to the story, isn’t there? We know this from our own experience. Is it really all that easy to find God in a particular place – even if it is a particularly holy place? Isn’t it possible, for example, to be bored rather than inspired when one enters a church or when one witnesses a beautiful sunset? Is it really easy to recognize God’s voice and trust in God’s promises, especially when it comes to us in a dream? Do we find it all that easy, for example, to recognize the presence of God in the story of Jesus, a story that we hear and re-enact each time we celebrate Mass? Do we find it any easier to recognize this same Jesus in the people who cross our paths daily?
To do this something more is needed. Something enabled Jacob, in his time of need, not only to remember his dream, but to place his trust in and to commit his life to the God who spoke to him in it. Something enabled the synagogue official, in his time of need, to humble himself before a wandering preacher, even when his daughter was already dead. Something enabled the woman, in her time of need, to believe that touching Jesus’ cloak could do for her what doctors had failed to do in the previous twelve years. Jesus himself identifies what this something is. Courage, he says, your faith has saved you. More than anything else, this is what we need to find God. This is what we need to recognize our respective Bethels and to reach out and touch the fringe of the Lord’s cloak as he passes by.
Which is why it’s quite striking that there is in each of the readings today an awakening. Jacob awakens from his dream with a renewed sense of God’s presence. The little girl awakens from the sleep of death to find Jesus taking her by the hand and helping her to stand up. Isn’t this the very thing that we need too? In our own attempts at finding God, each of us needs to be awakened to the faith that enables us both to recognize and to reach out to the Lord.
How is the Lord awakening us today?