Faith to move mountains!
Sweeping across Germany at the end of World War II, Allied forces searched farms and houses looking for snipers. At one abandoned house, almost a heap of rubble, searchers with flashlights found their way to the basement. There, on the crumbling wall, a victim of the Holocaust had scratched a Star of David. And beneath it, in rough lettering, the message:
I believe in the sun—even when it does not shine;
I believe in love—even when it is not shown;
I believe in God—even when he does not speak.
Believing in God when we do not hear him speak is a real act of faith. Perseverance and persistence would seem to be key characteristics of faith in God.
As an adult, I still recall from time to time, my own early crisis of faith and belief. I was just 10 years of age when my Grandfather became seriously ill and was taken to hospital. It was, as they say, touch and go for a while. Being a young child with great faith I prayed really hard and he recovered and so my faith was strengthened, or so I like to believe. A few weeks later my father, who was in hospital for a routine procedure, died unexpectedly and suddenly. Nothing would convince me but that this was the price that had to be paid to God for answering my prayers for Granda’s recovery. I don’t know where I got this image of how God works but it was very real for me. I think that children often blame themselves for family circumstances over which they have no real control.
Anyway, I promptly decided that this was not a God in whom I wished to believe. On reflection, my new found atheism had a particularly Irish flavour. I still went to Mass every week and confession every month. This may have had something to do with the fact that I was more afraid of my mother than of God. God, for all his omnipotence, was unlikely give me a clip round the ear for refusing to go to Mass. Like most children, when dealing with things they do not understand and for which they feel responsible, I kept this crisis of faith to myself.
Thankfully, I will always be grateful to a kindly Holy Ghost priest who led a school retreat in St. Flannan’s College. Somehow or other I ended up telling him my story and he had the wisdom to regard my difficulties with the same seriousness that I regarded them myself. He did not dismiss my concerns as a childish immaturity but gently led me to a new understanding. Looking back on this period of my life, I am more than a little amazed at my arrogance, in believing that my prayer should have so much control over the circumstances of life. The paradox is that, what I believed was faith was in fact an immature understanding of it. My understanding was probably the opposite of what faith should be.
The silence of God is one of the greatest challenges to our faith. In the sacred scriptures it is the challenge of Job whose anger and suffering and prayer receive no response but silence from God. When God’s blessing does not fully coincide with your expectations, remember to wait until the well is dry. There may be something precious at the bottom.
The size of faith doesn’t matter because God is the one doing the moving. If it is my faith that moved the mountain, then the bigger the mountain, the more faith I would need to move it. The bigger the obstacle, the more strength I’d need to climb it. The more serious the illness, a faith even greater would be required to overcome it. The more serious the sin, the more faith I would need in order to have it forgiven. That kind of thinking kind of makes sense, but that’s not how faith works. In fact, faith doesn’t do the work at all. And thank God for that.
God is the one doing the work through faith. Think of faith as the key that opens the door to God acting in our lives. If I have a bigger key ring than you do, does it matter? The size of a key ring doesn’t matter. Key rings don’t open doors, but it’s that little key on the ring that opens doors. Even a little faith opens the door for God to move the mountains and trees and even our hearts.
Fr. Brendan Quinlivan, based in Tulla is Vicar Forane for the parishes of Tulla, O’Callaghan’s Mills and Broadford