“For we walk by faith, not by sight…” II Corinthians 5:7/KJV
Joey and Kristen Masciantonio are devout Catholics. But they were losing faith. Their 15-month old daughter Gianna suffers from juvenile xanthogranuloma, a rare but serious blood disorder. Gianna had suffered through multiple surgeries and chemotherapy treatments during her young life. So much so that doctors from the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital told her parents she would likely not survive any more of them. And because the brain tumor has not been shrinking, they should just enjoy their final months with their baby daughter.
They were sitting at home one Saturday morning when their friend, Donny, who happened to be an FBI agent assigned to security detail for Pope Francis’ Philly visit, called and told them to hurry downtown, as he was fortunate enough to get them passes to see the Pope up close.
Joey initially resisted, thinking that with Gianna’s weakened immune system, bringing her into a large crowd was probably not a good idea. His wife, however, persisted and they finally agreed to go.
When the Pope’s motorcade was nearing, Joey held his baby high above his head, so that Donny their FBI friend, could spot them, and signal to the head of security, who swiftly took Gianna from Joey and brought her to the Pope, who leaned forward and kissed her on the head and granted her his blessing.
“We believe it was definitely a divine moment,” they said.
Six weeks later, Gianna’s latest MRI results came back and showed the the tumor had significantly and inexplicably shrunk to where it was “virtually invisible” and the doctors are now saying she will likely survive.
The Masciantonio family and their friends were calling it the “Miracle on Market Street”, referring to the downtown Philadelphia street where Pope Francis’ healing kiss took place. Their faith now fully restored, they openly and loudly proclaim that God’s work saved their baby’s life.
Faith is a remarkable and amazing thing. With it, nothing is impossible.
Recently, I attended mass at my parish. It was the start of a new series called, “The Promise.” Fr. Michael stood up before the congregation and immediately had my attention as he told us, “A little faith goes a long way but you must trust.” We’ve all heard it before, empty promises, empty words.
I promise you.
We’ve all been broken by broken promises. I promise is such a heavy word but far too often it’s taken too lightly. People say it without giving it any thought. We’ve all heard them and, quite frankly, we’ve all done it. I’ll be there for you. Just call me. You can trust me. I care about you. I love you. How many times has a friend promised to call or promised to get together but never followed through. These are what I call fleeting promises. They are short lived and have little substance or weight. They are frequently made but infrequently kept.
These promises may be taken lightly but they often have heavy consequences. Broken promises lead to broken relationships. Our level of trust in any relationship is based on our experiences with the other person. These experiences build our level of trust.
As I sat there in church, Fr. Michael’s words seemed to fill every crevice of my heart. I recognized myself, my life in his words. The truth is like everyone else, I’ve been hurt. I’ve been let down. I’ve felt the brunt of empty, broken promises. Lately, I’ve been having a hard time trusting again. It was almost like Fr. Michael was speaking directly to me; everyone else in the church was seemingly nonexistent.
If it’s hard for us to trust the people in our lives, then how hard is it to trust in the unseen? How hard is it to trust in God’s word and His countless promises in the Bible?
So many things, Fr. Michael noted, get in the way of trusting God. So many things get in the way of taking God on his word. But he strongly reminded everyone that we must trust in the unseen. Because life is much more than you can see with our eyes. “Broken hearts become brand new,” said Fr. Michael. “That’s what faith can do……God says, ‘I have. I will and I can.’”
I got to thinking about everything Fr. Michael said. So many things get in the way of trusting someone. True, it is sometimes hard to have faith in God’s word. But isn’t that true for any relationship? True, it is hard for us to trust in the unseen. But, honestly, to me God is not really unseen. God is everywhere and in everything. Below is a short story that explains this well; unfortunately the author is unknown.
A small boy once approached his slightly older sister with a question about God. “Susan, can anybody ever really see God?” he asked. Busy with other things, Susan curtly replied: “No, of course not silly. God is so far up in heaven that nobody can see Him.”
Time passed, but his question still lingered so he approached his mother: “Mum, can anybody ever really see God?”
“No, not really,” she gently said. “God is a spirit and He dwells in our hearts, but we can never really see Him.” Somewhat satisfied but still wondering, the youngster went on his way.
Not long afterwards, his saintly old grandfather took the little boy on a fishing trip. They were having a great time together—it had been an ideal day.
The sun was beginning to set with unusual splendor as the day ended. The old man stopped fishing and turned his full attention to the exquisite beauty unfolding before him. On seeing the face of his grandfather reflecting such deep peace and contentment as he gazed into the magnificent ever-changing sunset, the little boy thought for a moment and finally spoke hesitatingly,
“Grandad, I—I wasn’t going to ask anybody else, but I wonder if you can tell me the answer to something I’ve been wondering about a long time—can anybody—can anybody ever really see God?”
The old man did not even turn his head. A long moment slipped by before he finally answered.
“Grandson,” he quietly said. “It’s getting so I can’t see anything else.”
I love that story. If you look long enough, much like the grandfather in this story, you will see God.
He was clearly present in baby Gianna’s miracle cure, but He is also present in the air that we breathe. He is present in the roar of the incessant ocean and the beauty of the lone rose. He is everywhere and in everything, especially the love that you feel within your heart.
This blog is dedicated to baby Gianna Masciantonio. May God continue to bless her with his miracles.