Posted May 08, 2012 in New Millennium:
Those Shining Moments

by Fr. David May.

My mother was the first to introduce me to them—those shining moments of simple faith in God.

I remember being about six or seven. It was a very stressful time in our little family, consisting at that time of my mother, my little sister, and me. It was around 1957 or 1958, and we lived in a drab Detroit suburb.

That late winter’s day, the old car wasn’t working, or perhaps there wasn’t enough money for gasoline, cheap as it was in those days.

In any event, it was a Sunday morning and time to go to Mass. So we set out on foot through the slush and snow—my sister riding in a stroller—for church about two miles away.

I don’t remember anything about the Mass that day. We knew no one in the parish. Yet somehow we were consoled. We had placed all our hope in God, for surely we had no other. Then we returned home by the same route, our little pilgrimage ended for another week.

How does such a vignette strike you? As sad and pathetic perhaps? Or does it come across as sacrificial, even heroic? Is it ordinary or out of the ordinary? My answer? Take your pick! Any of the above might be true.

But more than any of the above, it was a creation of God’s grace. It was a "moment" of faith in Him, somehow transcending all life’s many obstacles to believing God is good, God is faithful, God is love.

For a moment in time you are like the widow in the Gospels who gives her last two pennies to the temple treasury, "all she had to live on."

Now, having nothing else, you have only what God will give. And this, you wait for in confidence, in peace.

Few of us live at such a level all the time, but most of us who follow Christ are invited by him to receive the gift of walking on the waters. At such a time, only faith holds you up and stops you from sinking. Only faith brings peace beyond all human understanding and calculation.

Such faith is a gift you pray for, not an attitude you create yourself, though that same grace enables you to put on the garment of confidence in God as if it were your very own.

Like the time, for instance, in the early years of Madonna House, when word came from a knowledgeable and trustworthy source that the bishop of the diocese had finally decided to withdraw his approval of the community. Confirmation of this information would be imminent.

As they absorbed this piece of news, Catherine Doherty and Father Brière were standing on the front lawn at the main house, looking together down the beautiful Madawaska River on a brilliant summer’s day.

Its very splendor seemed to radiate indifference to their fate. The waters flowed peacefully by as they had done for millennia, following their appointed course.

"What are you going to do now?" Catherine asked.

"Well, there is a meeting scheduled at the farm this afternoon, so I guess I’ll go there as planned. What will you do?"

"We’re sorting books in the library in a few minutes, so I better get inside."

With that, they both went about their duty of the moment in faith, building a house of love, not knowing what the next hours or days might bring. A shining moment! (The rumor, it turned out, was false.)

A third moment I have seen many times. I love it so much when a young person decides to risk all for God’s sake and entrusts his or her life to God by obeying the call to join Madonna House.

To get to that point, there has to be a big "sell-off," as in the gospel saying, Arise, go, sell all you possess (cf Mt 19:21).

This will be according to God’s timetables, not one’s own. And what gets "sold" is often not what one originally thought it would be.

In Madonna House—and perhaps in your life, too—what God wants very often are the illusions we carry about ourselves! That we are strong. That we are wise or even holy. That we have an important contribution to make to the community, the Church, and/or the world, based on our natural gifts.

Or, on the other hand, how about this set of "goods"? That we are weak and poor. That we are worthless and unloved. That we are sinners who should be ashamed of our stupidity. That it is not likely we’ll ever make an important contribution to the community, the Church, or the world, so miserable are we!

But then comes the moment of grace that God alone can give. The strong are shown how weak they really are. The wise, how foolish. The self-important, how unessential they are to the unfolding of events on any level.

The weak, on the other hand, are called upon to be strong. The worthless and unloved are raised high in esteem. The sinner is shown utterly undeserved mercy for the thousandth time… for the same sin. The community’s desperate need for the contribution of this "lowly" one and that "poor" one is made abundantly clear.

Nobody would dare plan such a series of events, but incredibly, that’s most often what happens.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, people find themselves called to walk in a wholly new territory, as illusions of human strength and giftedness are dispelled on the one side and illusions of being beyond God’s saving grace are peeled off on the other.

Now there is only one real choice (other than running away): to walk in faith, depending on God as never before, and discovering a mercy and a strength not from oneself, but wholly from him.

A shining moment, for God gives no less than himself in exchange for what was "lost."

What, then, is the shining "moment" of faith? It is that span of time when you live from God alone. And what do you discover at such a time? Perhaps the words of Psalm 113 say it best:

High above all nations is the Lord, above the heavens his glory.
Who is like the Lord our God, who has risen on high to his throne,
Yet stoops from the heights to look down, to look down upon heaven and earth?
From the dust he lifts up the lowly, from his misery he raises the poor
To set him in the company of princes, yes, with the princes of his people.
To the childless wife he gives a home, and gladdens her heart with children.


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