St. Polycarp was a leader of the second generation of Christians — that is, those who were not immediate eyewitnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus. He was known to be a holy man, a person of prayer and of deep trust in God. When his persecutors were looking to put him to death, he welcomed them into his home, fed them dinner, and knowing of his approaching death, he asked them to have an hour to pray before they lead him away. His last prayer during this time was for those around him, and essentially it was a prayer of gratitude during which he praised and glorified God for considering him worthy to die such a death and for the gift of resurrection in eternal life. Polycarp was able to praise God because he was able to see beyond the suffering he was facing; he was able to trust that God would come through once again, just as God had many times throughout his 86 years of life.
Polycarp made the leap that faith requires. When facing various challenges in our daily life, our faith is what gives us the opportunity to move beyond the immediate difficulty of the situation we find ourselves in, to the possibility of a new life which God can give. We need to merely open ourselves to this possibility, to trust that God can in fact liberate us regardless of how bad things may seem.
I have often been inspired by various Christians that have crossed my life path over time — Christians whose faith is so alive that it creates miracles, big and small, in everyday life.
A particularly meaningful moment from my years of graduate studies has made an early impression on me. Somewhere in the second year of theological studies, my student loan fell through and I realized that I would have to withdraw from the program, at least until I found a new way of funding the rest of my studies. This was a great disappointment, and led to much confusion about what to do next. I informed my program director of what happened and of my need to postpone the program. His response surprised me. Simply and quietly, but with a strong conviction, he said “God will provide,” then he turned and left me standing there, pondering these seemingly simplistic words and what would possibly make him so certain. This was one of my greatest learning moments at the time. This was faith in action. And just in case he was going to be right, I decided to go home and do my homework for the day. Surely enough, less than a week later, a bursary arrived at the college, which the college graciously offered me to fund that year of studies. God really did come through.
In the gospel, Jesus tells us that even if our faith is as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains. Faith makes possible that which seems impossible for us. Faith opens the door to the possibility of miracles. And miracles set precedents — if God came through before, when things seemed bleak, I need to remind myself to trust God enough the next time life throws a curveball.
-Natalia Kononenko, Editor, Living with Christ
Looking for more reflections to guide your prayer life? Check out our newest book, Small Things: Reflections on Faith and Hope by Gerry Turcotte.