Sunday, August 21, 2016

Our Faith in God sustains Us

In Scripture, the Letter to the Hebrews alludes to the age-old philosophical question:  why do bad things happen to good people?

Of course there’s no satisfactory answer to floods in Louisiana, fires in California, earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan.  Yet the author proposes that hardships can help us realize our true selves. Inescapable suffering, accepted with trust in an All-Good God, can be saving and healing for ourselves and others.   The sufferings of Jesus were precisely that.

Jesus: the gate to eternal life
In Luke's Gospel, Jesus says that we have to struggle to enter through that symbolic "narrow gate" into the kingdom of God. Jesus of course is the "gate" to eternal life. Many people struggle through so-called “narrow gates” as they go through the cycle of human development from adolescence to old age.

I think of the movie “Brooklyn”: a charming story.  Eilis Lacey grew up in a small Irish village in the 1950s.  Lacking opportunities there, she decides to open the door to a new life in Brooklyn.

She doesn't have a promising start.  She's seasick on the ocean crossing; letters from home exacerbate her homesickness; and she feels lost in the fast-moving pace of New York City.  But people along the way help.  She gradually sees a future, a new life beyond the door she opened.

Suddenly Eilis is called back to Ireland for a family emergency.  She confronts her guilt for leaving. Then, on her way back to America, Eilis befriends another young woman like herself.  Eilis notes: “You'll feel so homesick that you'll want to die, but you will endure it and it won't kill you.  And one day the sun will come out.  And you'll realize...this is where your life is.”

Many times we can only go through so-called narrow gates or doors of life by letting go of our fears and doubts, by realizing that God is with us.  Our Catholic faith can sustain us as we pass through, because it helps us overcome fears and doubts, because it satisfies our basic needs.

Our faith fosters a healthy self-image. God lives within us and we live within God.   People with a positive, healthy self-image generally are constructive.

Second, our faith satisfies our longing for happiness.  Within every human being there is a sub-conscious quest for the Ultimate, the All-Good.  Our primary purpose in life is to live in relationship with God and one another.

Third, our faith gives us a sense of belonging. We are a community of believers, with heroes and heroines who inspire us, who encourage us.  We are linked together by a common bond of faith, grace and Baptism. We gather to offer God gratitude and worship and to ask God in the Our Father prayer to satisfy our basic needs.

We are not only heroes and heroines, but also sinners and scoundrels.  Not everyone is as good as we would like.   We have to live with some messiness, and muddle through.  When we sin, Jesus assures us God's mercy outweighs our failures.

Finally, we have a guide in the Bible.  The Risen Christ is present in the Scriptures proclaimed in our liturgies.

As we go through the many “narrow gates” or doors in the cycle of our human development, our faith will sustain us so that we can eventually enter safely through that last “gate” into the kingdom of God.

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