Gratitude and Faith

LTC-brojohn-12042014

Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock. He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down; He tumbles it to the ground, levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor.

Isaiah 26: 4-6

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.

Matthew 7: 24-27

On what is the foundation of our life built? This is a question posed by today’s readings. Isaiah tell us that when we are on “our high horse” is when we are most apt to tumble down, and Jesus in Matthew’s account tells us that when we have nice ideas about God but don’t live by them we are apt to be swept away by the storms of life. It is the needy and the poor who endure. It is those who generously act on the word they receive, even though they experience the limits of what they have to offer, whose foundation is rock solid. In the recurring scriptural paradox, we learn that it is when we are doing our best to give out of our poverty and weakness the little we feel we have to offer that we stand unshakeable.

Many years ago we took our novices to North Carolina for a month of presence and service to the people of a poor area of that State. One day we were asked to visit the quite dilapidated home of a poor elderly couple in order to put a covering on their leaky roof. The work itself took us but a few hours, after which our hosts insisted that we have dinner with them, as they shared with us a meal which included meat that was, no doubt, a rare occurrence for them. After eating, we were given a brief tour of their extremely modest home and surroundings. On the side of a house there was an old and somewhat deteriorating peach tree. As she pointed it out, our hostess told us: “Jesus is so good to us. This tree had two peaches, just enough for James me.” Although we had come, based on our understanding of the gospel, to do a good deed for these people, we had rather been cared for and strengthened by them. They had shown us the meaning of “rock-solid” faith.

As founded on feeling and thought, faith is subject to the same vicissitudes as any thought or feeling. It, as all human formations, comes and goes, dictated by changing circumstances and our reactions to them. As good capitalists, we tend to see faith as a contract that grows stronger the more we get what we want in life, the more that God’s will, that is God’s creative action in the world, conforms to our wishes. At its heart, this is not faith in God but rather in our own desires and demands, and since our desires and demands do not control the universe, this “faith” is built on shifting sands. But when we are able to recognize that every moment, whatever its character, is gift, that merely two apples are “just enough for James and me,” we come to know intimately a God who can be trusted, a faith that is built on rock.

Each docile act makes us receive God totally and give God totally, in a great freedom of spirit.

And thus life becomes a celebration.

Each tiny act is an extraordinary event, in which heaven is given to us, in which we are able to give heaven to others.

It makes no difference what we do, whether we take in hand a broom or a pen. Whether we speak or keep silent. Whether we are sewing or holding a meeting, caring for a sick person or tapping away at a typewriter.

Whatever it is, it’s just the outer shell of an amazing inner reality: the soul’s encounter, renewed at each moment, in which, at each moment, the soul grows in grace and becomes ever more beautiful for her God.

Is the doorbell ringing? Quick, open the door! It’s God coming to love us. Is someone asking us to do something? Here you are! … it’s God coming to love us. Is it time to sit down for lunch? Let’s go … it’s God coming to love us.

Madeleine Delbrel

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