by Fr. David May.
"Those who believe, see; they see with a light that illumines their entire journey, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets." [#1]
"The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God." [#4]
These two quotes come from early on in the encyclical brought out by Pope Francis this summer, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith). They are just a tiny glimpse of the pope’s meditation on how the gift of faith transforms human existence.
I don’t intend in this article to write a summary of the encyclical. Instead I want to use what I’ve just written to remind myself and you of what blessings the Lord brings through faith.
And what is the primary blessing? It is believing in and welcoming God’s word of love to us, his Son, Jesus Christ, every moment of our lives. By enabling us to do so, "the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us to joyfully advance along that way on wings of hope." [# 7]
This afternoon I had the blessed privilege of spending an hour before the Blessed Sacrament while most of the community was at Mass. (I had celebrated earlier at the farm.) I just knelt or sat before the Lord, praying and rereading parts of the encyclical. I kept returning to a couple of thoughts.
First, that point about faith being a light which illumines every aspect of life. How true that is! And, how often we forget this truth!
So much of life’s average day seems shrouded in a kind of darkness, or at least grayness. So often we forget to turn to the Lord in the midst of our anxieties, worries, and struggles.
We forget how the gift of faith can be stirred up through the means the Church our Mother provides and recommends: prayer, reading the Scripture, receiving the sacraments, and serving our neighbor with a generous heart.
Second, what does that really mean: "to stir up the gift of faith"? I think that first it means to be courageous. That is, be open to whatever life offers me today, and to not seek escape.Our faith is faith in an incarnate Lord, one who lived "in his flesh," in our human condition. And he continues to want to meet us and to save us there, in that place that is often so messy.
He is not to be found in my fantasy world or in the one I daydream about to avoid the pains and worries of this one.
This morning I woke up early, as I always do, but after a poor night’s sleep. There is a lot on my mind these days, but that’s nothing new, because when you are a director in Madonna House, "a lot on my mind" comes with the package!
(I still haven’t figured out how Pope John XXIII handed the whole Church over to the Lord at bedtime and proceeded to have a good night’s sleep.)
I am thinking a lot about one of our priests slowly recovering from heart surgery; I don’t want to "lose" him, but I wonder what the Lord wants? I tell Him what I want in any case! I think of Father Louis at home now with his family, his father having just passed away only two months after his mother died.
Meanwhile, one of our pioneers, Joe Walker, has just died. At age 90, after a long life serving the Lord, he was ready to go.
As I write, it’s the peak of our season for guests. As always throughout our MH history, they mostly come with serious reasons for being here, and it is a beautiful privilege to get to know them a little and to pray for them.
I’m also concerned about the carrots at St. Mary’s, where I garden early mornings in the summer. The weeds are awful this year, and in their early stages, carrots are the demure, delicate crop of the gardens.
They start from microscopic seeds which produce a couple of little feathery green things that are supposed to pass as leaves and begin the process of manufacturing carrot root for the winter. They need lots of attention just now in the face of space-devouring weeds without number.
And I have a lot of more serious concerns still, mainly centering around people I love or the community and its spirit that I am responsible for (along with many others, thank God!).
Then there’s my family, whom I can see only once a year, and then there’s the world at large in various dimensions that I won’t list here. And so, I turn to the Lord in faith.
What happens if I choose to do this rather than daydream or wish at least some of my life away? Well, my prayer is more intense, for starters. At times I have to fight to stay present to the day as it is, and this isn’t always easy.
But faith lifts my heart and spirit to the Lord himself, and if there is one image that is most constant for me, it is that of Jesus on the Cross—alive, compassionate, looking at me with such deep peace. It is the face of One who is victorious.
Today he leads me to his word from the liturgy: the crossing of the Red Sea from Exodus 14, and Jesus calling brother and sister and mother those who do the Father’s will (Matthew 12:46ff).
I realize that I do indeed believe that by my obedience to my Father today, someone, somewhere, and hopefully many, will "cross over," or at least take a step towards that greater freedom of spirit the Gospel gives.
I don’t know how I have come to believe this, but I have it in my heart as something certain and sure. Not that I see it happen every day, but I believe the One who triumphed on the Cross is at work every day.
He penetrates from within the sufferings and trials of life to obtain salvation for many, and my life’s offering is a doorway for this to happen.
It’s as if the Suffering Servant Songs of Isaiah have gone into me somehow, with their promise of resurrection.
Even so, I fight at times to stay on course with this, and the one I have to fight the most is myself not wanting to do it! I am sad to have to admit this and wonder: where is my faith, or why do I have so little of it in face of the Lord’s generosity?
It may look like I am in many ways a faithful servant, but I (and the Lord even more) know my inner makeup and dividedness of heart.
I hope you are not scandalized by this. I have to deal with it every day, and that’s where prayer comes in again, confession, receiving the Eucharist, holy water, sighs too deep for words.
Oh, when will my faith truly come alive and be wholehearted and not divided? And more to the point: when will I really want this to be the case?
Our Lord does not answer such questions in my life. Why should he? He knows and I know that all I need do is come to him. So, praying all the while in some manner, I live my day in the hopes of living it with him and for him.
Do you see how faith illumines our days with some kind of understanding and meaning and also with a promise of ultimate victory if we cling to the Lord?
Finally, I rest in his love. For we believe that love is indeed the "first word and the last" in life.
And when, through the Holy Spirit, we remember this, we do indeed "joyfully advance along our way on wings of hope." … Limping, crawling, walking, or running, we joyfully advance, and another day of faith comes to an end.
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