A mature Christian is someone who does what needs to be done. Through hard times when God seems absent and the soul feels empty, the mature Christian continues to keep faith and carry on.
I have to credit Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, with that observation. But it is one of my favourites from this great spiritual writer — and one that has given me solace on long spiritually dry times when it seemed my only recourse was to endure and hope for better days.
In a way, that thought fits well with Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew. Jesus is pestered by a Canaanite woman who wants Jesus to exorcise a demon from her daughter. All his entourage tells the woman to go away; even Jesus himself at first gives her the cold shoulder.
Yet she persists in appealing to his compassion. And he rewards her, saying, “Woman, great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Faith is sometimes like that. It’s easy when times are good. Jesus seems to be blessing our lives and we are tempted to credit our abundant faith for our good fortune. Our attendance to our prayer and sacramental life appears to be paying off after all.
But that notion can backfire. Does it mean we are people of little faith when things go wrong? Does it mean we have somehow offended God and are being punished?
In both instances, the answer is no. God doesn’t work that way. And faith in God is not just a warm fuzzy feeling. Nor is it even certainty that God is who our church teaches he is.
Rather, a persistent faith carries on even when we feel like God is not listening, or we begin to have doubts. Persistent faith survives doubts and prods us to continue in our life of prayer and practice even when it seems pointless.
In such dark times, God does not disappear from our lives. As Jesus said, he is with us always. It’s just that our hearts are so heavily burdened; we have great difficulty looking beyond our own woes to see the divine plan for us.
At such moments, we can learn from the Canaanite woman. Faith will carry us through. As Julian of Norwich so famously said: “All manner of thing shall be well.”
-Joseph Sinasac, Publisher