Monday, September 8, 2008

WE WALK BY FAITH

In matters of faith, as in all of life it is only from hindsight that one can really see clearer patterns emerging. Hindsight is often 20-20. And from one’s present vantage point, the road ahead is rarely clear and the direction one would like his life to take is usually uncertain. With enough faith and trust, however, the vagueness of one’s starting point, as well as the often overwhelming darkness of the path ahead, can not only be borne with courage, but actually overcome and transformed into a source of great personal growth. One then not only survives the uncertainty, he can even thrive on account of it.

This is all the more true of one who seeks to minister to God’s people by following closely in the footsteps of Christ. He needs to be both active and patient in living the challenges and difficulties of his calling, whatever shape or form these may take in daily life. He must be an “active” participant, because discerning the will of God does not amount to passively waiting for things to unfold or to merely react when they do. And yet he should also be “patient”, because the process of discernment moves not only from darkness into light, but from clarity to greater clarity as well. This reminds me of a hymn we used to sing at evening prayer at the seminary in Belgium, part of it went:

“We walk by faith and not by sight, no gracious words we hear
of him who spoke as none e’er spoke. But we believe him near.
We may not touch his hands or side, nor follow where he trod,
but in his promise we rejoice, and cry ‘My Lord and God’.”

Things will not always be clear, especially at the beginning of our adventure in seminary formation, one that is really a journey into the heart of Christ. In fact for some, there is much in the entire journey that would seem dark, difficult, and at certain moments, even impossible. We only have to recall God’s call to Abraham who was well-established and doing well in his homeland when God called him and promised to make him the father of many nations (Gen 12:1-3). Not only was the invitation difficult as it meant going into completely unknown territory, but to compound matters, many years later, we find Abraham still childless and wondering out loud how he could possibly be the “Father of many nations” when he remained without even one heir: “O Lord God, what good will your gifts be, if I keep on being childless?” (Gen 15: 2)

In God’s own time, however, Abraham did have a child, two of them in fact. And the rest of course is history. For those of us who wish to follow Christ, the lesson of Abraham’s call and his adventure from terra firma into terra incognita serves as a reminder that challenging, difficult, and sometimes gut-wrenching as the needed response to God’s invitation might be, there is always joy and gladness that awaits those who put their trust in a God who keeps his promises, however long it sometimes seems to take him. Of the faith, hope, and trust that a follower of Christ needs to have, no truer words were spoken than those of St. Paul:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard…the things which God has prepared for those who love him”. (I Cor 2:9)

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)