Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Leap of Faith

Readings: Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10; Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15 and 17; Matthew 13:1-9
Picture: CC Scott Ableman

Do you remember the last time you were invited or required to do something you didn’t really want to do, or something you didn’t think you were capable of doing? Perhaps you were asked to jump into the deep end of the pool, for example, before you had learned how to swim. What did it feel like? Did you do it? What factors did you consider in deciding one way or the other? It is questions such as these that might help us begin our reflection upon the scriptures today.

The gospel passage is one that we heard just two Sundays ago. We know it well. It speaks of the importance of being receptive to the Word of God in order to bear fruit. It also highlights different obstacles that might hinder such receptivity: hard surfaces, lack of depth, thorny ground. And we might perhaps add another to the list: the reluctance to do what the Word might require of us. We know that once we receive the Word, something will be expected of us. We can no longer hate our neighbor, for example. We have to reach out to the needy. We have to find ways to share our faith with others… But we don’t always feel up to such tasks. So, consciously or not, we may think that it is perhaps better not to receive the Word at all. Or, even if we do, then we do so only half-heartedly. Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us to face such struggles alone. God gently coaxes us to stretch ourselves and to respond.

Which is what God is doing for Jeremiah in the first reading. God calls the would-be prophet to speak a difficult word to the people. To do this Jeremiah will have to undergo various trials. Can we fault Jeremiah for not feeling up to the task? I do not know how to speak: I am a child! Still, the Lord patiently reassures him: There! I am putting my words into your mouth, and Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to protect you. Not only does God promise to provide the prophet with words, but also to remain ever by his side, supporting him in his ministry.

In addition, God also addresses what might be an unspoken reservation of the prophet’s. When we are asked to do something difficult, isn’t it the case that we may sometimes think that we know ourselves much better than the one who is asking? We know our limits: what we can and cannot do. But God reminds Jeremiah that this is patently not true, at least not in this particular case. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you… God knows Jeremiah much better than he could ever know himself. God sees abilities in him that Jeremiah is as yet unaware. And in this thorough knowledge of him, God also desires what is best for him, what can lead him to true happiness and deep fulfillment, even as he strives to serve God and the people.

Even so, in order for Jeremiah to realize the truth of God’s assurances, he must first respond positively. He must learn to trust the One who is calling him. He must step out in faith. I’m reminded of that scene in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where our hero has to cross a deep chasm. There seems to be no way across, but the instruction given to him is to make a leap of faith. He somehow finds the courage to take a first step into the abyss and is surprised to find his foot making contact with solid ground. He then takes the next step and the next, and crosses to safety. It is only then that he realizes that there was actually a bridge beneath his feet. But it was camouflaged and could not be seen from the other side. He could only discover its presence by first stepping out in faith.

How are we being called to do the same today?

1 comment:

  1. Honestly Fr. Chris, I am not sure if this is a conscious act, stepping out beyond our own comfort zone. We do have limitations.
    There is a Chinese saying that circumstances create the hero. Often there is a push beyond our own rationality. It is a spontaneous response.
    In the reading today, I imagine how it would be like if someone asked me to speak in front of an audience which would reduce me to a state like jello. It is not my norm.
    I've also met people who spoke up about their conversion and they are mildy surprised at their new found ability to witness. They spoke from the heart.
    So like any "unaccustomed" roles that we are called to perform, if we are sincere and speak with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, it might make a difference.
    There will be other areas of life where we would be required to step out of ourselves, and I am not sure how my response will be.


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