August 3, 2020
by Tom Purcell
Creighton University's School of Law Library
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 407/408

Jeremiah 28:1-17
Psalm 119:29, 43, 79, 80, 95, 102
Matthew 14:22-36
Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

A Matter of the Heart: Prayer as Relationship

I planted three hardy pecan trees this spring in my yard.

Today’s gospel presents two situations involving faith – Peter’s momentary loss of faith, and the sick people in the crowd who believed the mere touching of the cloak of Jesus would cure them.  The gospel excerpt challenges me to reflect on the meaning of faith.

I did a Google search of “faith means” and in less than a second received 819,000,000 results.  This in itself is an act of faith – how far can I trust Google, how reliable are the results it cites, how reputable are the people quoted in the results, etc.  “Faith” has so many meanings; some examples:

  • The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen – Hebrews, 11:1
  • Complete trust or confidence in someone or something; strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof – Oxford dictionary
  • Others – knowledge, reason, belief, trust, a gift from God
  • “When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen:  Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” – Edward Teller (nuclear physicist)

As you can appreciate, faith comes to mean so many things to so many people.  Peter believed Jesus was the Messiah, but at times Peter was distracted from his belief by some realities of life – the storm, for example, distracts him from continuing his walk on water, and the pending crucifixion of Jesus leads to his denial in the courtyard of the temple.  The crowd believed touching the cloak of Jesus would cure them, but they abandoned Jesus (as did the apostles) when Jesus was tried and convicted and put to death.

Faith to me means a belief firmly held and upon which we feel compelled to act in a manner that is consistent with the belief.  As Christians we believe in the salvific power of the resurrection, the admonitions from Jesus about how to live our lives, the exponential power of love of others versus love of self.  We strive to help rather than hurt, to heal rather than injure, to share rather than hoard.  We believe that by following these examples we will create the Kingdom of God on earth, and result in a better tomorrow, even if we are not alive to enjoy the results ourselves.

I planted three hardy pecan trees this spring in my yard.  They were small, bare-root trees, three years old.  After planting in the yard, they are about 2 – 3 feet tall.  It will take 7 – 10 years for them to be productive, and probably 15 or more years to reach maturity.  I believe – I have faith – that unless something (DEER!) or someone interferes with their growth and maturation, they will be stately trees at some point in the future.  I may not be here to see that day, but I have faith that it will happen.  I also have faith that even if I do not see the mature tree, someone will who appreciates the gift of the trees and can benefit from the fruits of the tree.

I supervised my students this past spring – both in person and remotely – in preparing tax returns for low income people.  I believe – I have faith – that both the students and our clients benefitted today from these transactions.  I have faith that in the future both the students and the clients, upon reflection, will be better people because of these services. 

My faith might be shaken if a doe does come by and takes a bite out of the tree.  But I still believe in the process of growth, and I can replant.  My faith might be shaken if a client is not appreciative and takes our services for granted.  But then another client goes out of her way to express gratitude to the community or someone within the university.  Peter was shaken by the storm and his betrayal, but he still believed, and eventually believed so strongly that he was willing to die for love of the Lord.  Crowds abandon true leaders, but they return time and again as they reflect on the power of the message from those who instill faith.

And so, my prayer today is for the grace to be ever mindful of and grateful for how faith in all its manifestations shapes my life. 

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