“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”
Niagara Falls, Canada
Last week, speaking about faith at the National Conference of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders in Los Angeles, California, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, remarked,
“Of course, that decision to trust demands not just real love, and not just real courage, but also real faith. We can’t trust a God we don’t believe in. Faith matters because hope and love can’t bear the weight of the suffering in the world without it. Faith matters because it reminds us that there’s good in the world, and meaning to every life; and that the things that make us human are worth fighting for. Faith matters because it drives us to do what’s right.”
Archbishop Chaput’s speech was an important reminder to me about the significance of faith. If you really think about it, faith is the foundation of every organized religion. Faith is a knowing without seeing.
I will never forget a beautiful sermon which was given by Fr. Frank during an Easter mass in 2012 at my church. Fr. Frank spoke about the importance of Easter and how there was no real proof in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “There is no real proof of the resurrection,” he said. “We can neither prove it nor disprove it.”
Fr. Frank then went on to tell about a memorable conversation he once had with his father. While speaking about the resurrection, his father, he told the congregation, said something very profound. The Apostles were actually proof of Jesus’ resurrection. Had Jesus not been real and had Jesus not risen from the dead, he told his son, the Apostles would not have hung around and kept the message of Jesus alive. If they did not truly believe, they would not have written about it and Christianity would have eventually fizzled out.
Fr. Frank had everyone’s attention as he then added that we, too, were proof of the resurrection because we believed and we were there on that Easter morning celebrating Jesus. In other words, our presence there that Easter morning was evidence of our faith. To take this one step further, our faith, then, is evidence of things unseen.
I can unequivocally say that my faith has carried me through tough, painful times in my life. But this same faith has also been challenged many times. It’s hard not to let your faith waver under the pressure of all the immense suffering in this world. Why is there so much suffering? Why is there evil? Why are innocent people reportedly dying in Syria as result of chemical warfare? I don’t know. But I do know God did not create evil and suffering. God is good. Good does not create evil.
Think of it this way. God is all loving. Love is our true essence and purpose. In order for us to experience this love, we must have free will. There must be choice in love. If we are not given a choice to love or not to love, then it’s not real. And unfortunately, with that choice and with that free will, comes pain and suffering.
Tomorrow, August 28, 2013, will mark the 88th birthday of my wonderful, beloved Godmother Lucy LoBrace. My godmother meant the world to me and she still does. Lucy suffered many hardships in her life and the loss of many family members and friends before her own death in February 2010. Through sickness and loss; through pain and suffering, she never lost sight of her faith. It was her faith that kept her going through the darkest days. Her faith was her light and saving grace.
Over the years, we had shared many conversations about God and the importance of faith. I was always amazed by her unwavering confidence in God and the idea of heaven. I used to tell her, “Lucy, when you get to heaven, put in a good word for me,” as we would both share a warm laugh.
Throughout Lucy’s many trials in life, I don’t ever remember her placing blame on God for any of her misfortunes. I don’t ever remember a time when she turned away from God or let her faith waver under the pressure. Instead, she leaned on her faith even more.
Many put faith and trust in the same category. But this is not the case. Faith is something we have. Trust is something we do. The two go hand in hand. Faith may be a knowing without seeing but trust is actually putting your faith to the test.
In the 19th Century, Charles Blondin became famous for his death defying walks on a tightrope across Niagara Falls. He crossed many times and each time was more daring than the previous one. For example, he crossed by bicycle, on stilts, and even carrying his manager on his back with a special shoulder harness. He walked the tightrope backwards and forwards and even in the dark.
There is one crossing, however, that is perhaps the most memorable. Blondin loved to engage the crowd. During one attempt, he asked the crowd if they believed he could cross Niagara Falls by tightrope while pushing a wheelbarrow. The response was unanimous. The crowd cheered and stressed their belief that Blondin could do it, no doubt about it.
As he got ready to perform this incredible feat, he asked the crowd: “Which of you will ride in the wheelbarrow?” Silence fell among the crowd as no one responded to his challenge.
This story is frequently circulated as a lesson on faith. Many spectators witnessed Blondin performing these amazing stunts. Based on what they witnessed, they believed in his abilities. Yet when it came time to act on that belief, no one was up to the challenge.
No doubt I would not have volunteered to ride in that wheelbarrow either. My point in telling you this is that the wheelbarrow to me represents the many challenges and hardships we will all surely face in our lifetime. And it is during these times that we need to hang on to our faith and trust that we, too, will make it across the tightrope.
This blog is dedicated to my friend Christina Ricerca. Thank you for the many times you have reminded me of the importance of faith when I needed it most. May you never waver in your own faith and always remember you are not alone.