Exactly How Much is Enough Faith?

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Do you possess enough faith? And exactly how much is enough faith? Think back to when you were starting out. You were young, inexperienced, full of ideals and hopes. You believed in the inherent goodness of people and wanted badly to make a difference in the world. You wanted to live an exciting life and grown-ups didn’t always know what they were talking about. And when you did the right thing every now and again, they’d smile or pat you on the back. This was expected of you and nothing less. “Do the right thing,” you often heard. And your reward was a clear conscience, the admiration of your family, and the respect of your neighbors. It was not much of an incentive. And for a long time after, their words would haunt you still. Look both ways before crossing the street. Eat your vegetables. Shut the front door, we’re not heating the whole neighborhood. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper, not on the floor. Do well in school; we’re only paying for four years. Lights out when you leave a room. Do you think money grows on trees?

You survived those lean years eking out an existence from a meager allowance, a less than minimum-wage part time job, your roommate’s leftovers, and the charity of strangers. You not only survived; you flourished. You moved up in the world. You made decisions that determined what would become of your life. Do you think you had enough faith then? Would any of it have happened if you didn’t believe in yourself?

Think back to when you chose to practice your faith, after Confirmation, realizing some of your friends went to other churches, after your parents stopped making you go (sorry, if it hasn’t happened yet.) Did you then honestly seek a meaningful faith experience or did you just give up trying and fall into the same old routine you had known all your life but did not really understand? Did you decide to skip church altogether for a time, maybe explore some new religion, maybe start your own church? And if you spent time away from the practice of your faith, how long did it take you to return? What brought you back? Did you get a sudden infusion of faith that you didn’t have before? Does your faith in any way define you now?

Think back to when you chose a career. Did it fall into your lap, or did you struggle to discover your true purpose in life? Did you sail smoothly into success, or did you have to work hard to get ahead? When you look back on that time in your life would you attribute your good fortune to sheer luck, careful planning and skill, or divine intervention? Did having faith help you get where you were going?

Think back to when you chose a spouse. Did you know what kind of person you wanted to spend your life with? Did you actually find that person? Or did you just fall for the first one to laugh at your jokes, or pay for your dinner, or not be a total dweeb? Would you do anything differently now that you know what you know? Did having faith affect the whole process in a positive way? Now that you’re older and wiser, do you think you have enough faith?

Have you had to face a challenge or crisis that gave you pause, making you seek advice from those you dearly love and respect? Have you ever had to walk away from a friend or has a friend ever walked away from you because of your convictions? Have you ever faced the loss of a loved one? Have you ever confronted a psychological trauma, a physical hardship, a terminal illness? Have you ever discarded or modified your philosophical outlook, your political affiliation, your church membership, or the general direction of your life? And now that you are older and wiser, do you finally have enough faith?

Exactly how much faith is enough? The prophet Habakkuk was extremely troubled by the evil in his time, the misery, the injustice, the violence and destruction, and God’s seeming indifference. “How long, O Lord?,” he prayed. “How long must we endure this evil?” And God’s answer doesn’t sound very reassuring, just that things will come together in the end, so hang in there. It’s what people tell us when challenges of daily life overwhelm us. We tell them the same thing when they feel swamped. It doesn’t lighten the load much. But it is comforting to know we are not alone and that we can count on them for whatever we need. Paul saw Timothy needed a lot of support. He instructed him to be strong and not be brought down by those who opposed his work. “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Paul didn’t promise that things would get better soon. “Stir into flame the gift of God that is not a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control.” In essence, don’t be afraid, stay focused, don’t let your troubles knock you down. You are much stronger than them. Don’t give in to discouragement. I believe in you.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you a very dark period in my life. I meant to say the cross is very real in our lives. Sometimes we find the courage to ask for help. Sometimes we find we have to go it alone. Sometimes things don’t get better the way we hope they would. Sometimes, it is tempting to give up. Today’s gospel invites us to believe we are not alone when we face difficulty. Still, we have to do our best and make the right choices. We have to believe that God shoulders his part of our burden. We have to trust that God understands our frustration and is not indifferent. Believe in me, he tells us. And know that I believe in you. Exactly how much faith is enough, you ask? As much as it takes for us to give God room to be God as only God knows how.

Rolo B Castillo © 2022

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