September 2022 Allocutio
“Just have faith” (Mk 5:36)
Fr. Paul Churchill
These are challenging words both in the order of nature and of grace. For example, Covid-19 has shown how nature can throw a spanner in our works and upset our path. In the order of grace we seem to be in a world that has, in many places, become immune to God’s reality and the value of knowing Christ Jesus. Practice has collapsed and, in many regions, older Christians don’t know how to respond to the new reality of non-faith and non-practice.
In the midst of it all we could end up getting despondent, panicking, fretting, being led a merry dance by anxiety.
How often, though, have we heard Our Lord say do not be afraid, trust! And how often did he call us just to have faith, with himself showing the deepest faith through his ultimate trial, accompanied in a similar faith by his mother, a faith we have indirectly celebrated in recent days through the feast of her sorrows.
What seems clear to me is that we listen again to those words of Our Lord: just have faith. Even a little faith can change things hugely. Just to give one example a youngish lady asked me in public would I hear her confession which I agreed to. That led to an older person who had overheard her request, ask me to hear his confession, his first in years! What Our Lord is saying to us at this moment is simply to trust. Why? Because the hand of God is bigger than the worst that we humans can sink to and in the end he will always win out as the journey of God’s people has shown at both a collective level but also in the lives of many inspiring individuals who lived through many dark moments.
Part of the world has opted for another way: we can save ourselves, we don’t need God. Except that time and time again we are being told that some other power is so much more powerful than we are. How many people die untimely and suddenly? How many natural destructive events remind us that nothing is stable? So many examples are showing us that we always need God’s help. And with people so fickle and any leader capable of making a serious mistake can we rely on the world we live in?
I can hear so many phrases from the psalms that speak to me. Let me take one: “Put no trust in horses, in mortal men in whom there is no help”. Why so? Because “Take their breadth, they return to clay and their plans that day come to nothing!” And for how many people has this turned out the way? You win the lotto and think you can now relax. But as Our Lord pointed out in his parable of the farmer with the big harvest who thinks he is safe: God will call your soul to himself this night. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring. All we can do is go forward leaving everything to trust in God’s hands.
What our world needs now is a simple but total witness of faith. God is the final boss and our small world with its petty self-interests at work cannot overcome the greater powers of God. So even though we be surrounded by a host of challenges at so many levels, let us stay calm, trusting God and witnessing by our calm dignity based on faith, standing as an alternative to a world that is ruled by panic and anxiety and over-reaction to the latest developments.
And here let me say a word about how valuable prayer is. Just to stop and take time out for prayer is a major statement in itself. By it we are saying that God is the real boss, that we depend on him, that all the drama of life and its strategies are not the only things that exist. But more, once we step out of the frenetic race of human driven activities, we begin to open doors for God to do his work. To make space for God to come in allows for new possibilities which often always achieve better results.
In the final prayer of the Tessera we pray that we have a faith “firm and immovable as a rock, through which we shall rest tranquil and steadfast amid the crosses, toils and disappointments of life”. A simple trust in God that he is the boss and will win, that because he loves us all will be well, such faith can also help our blood pressure and our health. And here let me ask a question: do you really believe that God loves you. You are here because he chose you and delights in you and supports you the whole way.
People need to see credible witnesses to faith today. They need the witness of people who opt to trust God and who do indeed rest tranquil and steadfast in the midst of life’s trials and so do not resort to ways of survival that do harm to others or themselves.
So let us go bravely forward with faith as Our Lady did at the Annunciation even though she knew she could not foresee the future. But blessed indeed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled even in her darkest hour on Calvary. May she who knows what true faith is about and has triumphed by it, win us all God’s Spirit to help us become people of outstanding faith. Amen.