Skip to comments.What CATegory are you in? A Meditation on why the Lord “needs” our faith.
Posted on 04/07/2014 1:43:15 AM PDT by markomalley
One of the main threads that ran through Sundays Gospel about the raising of Lazarus was faith, the need for faith and the Lords desire to draw others to a deeper faith. Jesus permits the illness and subsequent death of Lazarus, and even delays coming in order to increase their faith. He persistently questions both Martha and Mary about their faith and prays aloud that the crowd will come to come to greater faith. Yes, Jesus wants to grow everyones faith. This is something about which he is passionate but why?
Simply put, faith is the door that must be opened by us in order for the Lord to go to work. And while faith itself is a grace a gift it is a grace that interacts with our freedom. Faith is the supernaturally granted, assisted, and transformed human element that opens the door for every other work of God.
Over and over again, the Lord Jesus links faith to his saving work. Either it is something he inquires about before a miracle, or he announces it after a miracle. Sometimes, due to the lack of faith, he cannot work a miracle. Consider some of the following texts that link faith to the work of Jesus:
So in these and many other places, the Lord is absolutely insistent upon and needful of our faith in order to go to work. Faith is our Yes. Faith is our opening of the door to the Lord, who stands outside and knocks (cf Rev 3:20).
But why is this so? Perhaps an image or analogy will work. It is a humble one to be sure, but it may help to illustrate why the Lord needs our faith.
I have lived in the city for most of my twenty-five years as a priest. Now cities have streets, streets have alleys, and alleys have alley cats. And I have discovered that it is a very good thing to take care of the alley cats. It is because of them that there are very few if any rats in our alley. And this is a very great blessing. In gratitude, I take care of the alley cats or at least I try to.
I say try because I have learned that there are three different categories of alley cat (get it? CATegories ?). And depending upon which category they fall into, I am more or less able to help them.
The first category contains those alley cats that greatly trust me. They are the ones who come up onto the back porch when I return home and greet me. They rub up against my leg and arch their backs. They let me rub their necks. Among these alley cats have been Ellen Bayne, Jenny June, Katie Bell, Gracie Allen, and Oscar Wilde. (Yes, I name them all.) So trusting are these cats that Im able not only to feed them, but often to get them necessary medical help. Because of their trust, I am able to help them greatly. Their trust, you might say their faith, opens the door and allows me to be a great help to them.
The second category contains those alley cats that stand at a distance and will not come close to me. They will allow me to put food out on the back porch, but they wait until I close the door to come up and partake of it. However, they usually only get the leftovers after Ellen Bayne and the others have already had their fill. This second type will not allow me to touch them, so they never get their necks rubbed, nor am I able to help them when they are injured or need medicine. Because they trust me less, I am able to do less for them.
The third category contains those that will have nothing to do with me simply because I am a human being. The very scent of a human being means that they will have nothing to do with anything carrying that scent. These cats will never come up the steps of my back porch, and any food that I would put out would go uneaten because it carries that human scent. Because they do not trust me at all, theres nothing I can do for them, absolutely nothing.
And in all of this, there is a lesson. Trust opens the door, and then I can help the cats. A lot of trust yields a lot of help; a little trust yields a little help; no trust yields no help. And it is this way with us and God. Jesus needs our trust and our faith in order to be able to go to work, in order to be able to help us. What CATegory are you in?
While it is true that God could simply overrule us and force his help upon us, he does not generally do this. He needs our faith, our opening of the door, our trust to be able to go to work.
And this is why Jesus is so insistent in yesterdays Gospel, on drawing out faith from those who lament Lazarus. This is why, all throughout the Gospels, the Lord connects his greatest works with faith and trust. He looks for faith, demands faith, needs faith in order to work miracles. And when he works them, he commends the faith of those who receive them. It is faith that opens the door.
Yes, what CATegory are you in? See how important faith is and how it opens the door? Lord increase our faith! I do believe Lord; help my unbelief!
Msgr Pope ping
Timely post. My 39 year old brother just died from incurable aggressive liver cancer that was caught 9 months ago. Chemotherapy treatments tailed and he spent his lasts 2 months in hospice care.
For much of that 9 months, I prayed for the Lord to heal my brother based upon my faith that he would heal my brother’s cancer. I wasn’t even praying for him to be cured, but just to go into remission and give him a few years to life a renewed life that he would appreciate from his miraculous extension.
The Lord saw fit not to grant the miracle I prayed for. God doesn’t serve me, and I would never temp nor test him. This failure still shakes me and leaves me wondering if I didn’t kill my brother because my faith was too weak for the Lord to grant the miracle I had prayed for.
I full realize it may just be that the Lord had other plans for my brother, my faith notwithstanding. But faith being the bedrock of the Lord’s healing miracles, I really thought my faith was sufficient that the Lord would heal my brother and give him a few extra years on the earth.
I don’t blame God for a thing. I am just left wondering if maybe my faith is too weak, and that hurts and scares me. You would think I would know if my faith was absolute or not. You would think I know. But I don’t.
The first reading from yesterday spoke of God opening the graves and putting His people in their land at the end of time. Have faith in the resurrection for that is the promise of God to the faithful.
God gave your brother 39 years.
Jesus had 36.
From Fr. George W. Rutler
When Lazarus died, the disciples were puzzled that our Lord sat down on the Jericho road and waited for a while before starting off for Bethany. But this was part of a plan. He tells them something that sounds strange at first: that during daylight people walk freely, but at night they stumble because there is no light in them (John 11:10). He does not say that there is no light outside them, for that would be physical light. He is speaking of himself, the Light of the World. That is, he illuminates the intellect and will, in order to reveal his plan for our mortal lives. Just as height is different from stature, so does seeing become perception when guided by the light shines in the darkness (John 1:5).
Such confidence in Gods plan explains the serenity of the saints. It is not despite rough times and challenges, but because they deliberately slog through them, that the saints know that Christ is in charge. Only human pride doubts that, as in the case of the Pharisees who plotted against the Lord of History even when they saw him raise Lazarus from the tomb. For them history was a static moment, and they did not trust where the Lord was taking them. But to those who follow him, he says the equivalent of the traditional helmsmans cry, Steady on. In more elegant diction he says, Be glad and rejoice forever and ever for what I am creating (Isaiah 65:18).
“...if maybe my faith is too weak...”
Don’t worry - everyone, including the saints, are on a continual quest to strengthen their faith. However, God has His plan for each of us; the ultimate test of our Faith is accepting God’s Will for ourselves and our loved ones. I do not say this lightly, as my 16 year old daughter has battled a serious bone marrow disease (auto immune) for 10 years and is now scheduled to undergo a bone marrow transplant this summer.
The main thing to remember is that we are on a pilgrim journey here on earth and our destination, heaven, that God has lovingly created for us, is actually far superior to the things found here in the fallen world. People don’t realize how fabulous heaven is. If one just meditates on the concept, we realize that God is responsible for the most beautiful sights and music here on earth; He also created heaven so it will be awesome!!
Also, since God sent death and suffering to His own son, it shows that none of us will escape it - it is our acceptance of His will that matters as far as faith is concerned, and keeping in mind the true destination.
We love Fr. Rutler. I get his emails on Sundays too.
Please add me to your ping list for Msgr Pope if you wouldn’t mind. Thank you.
Dear Freedom - So sorry about your brother. I lost mine a while ago, in a blizzard. It is a terrible loss. We had a young man at church with cancer. We had prayer meetings galore, just loved him so much. At one point, I was speaking with a nurse in our congregation who knew him well. “So, how is Michael?” “He is dying, you know.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. Yes, of course, he was dying. It broke through the denial.
Suffering is part of life. It is NOT heaven down here. Life can be terrible, cancer is brutal, death is so final. Whether your brother got a few more years or not did not depend on YOU. The Lord wanted you to walk with Him through the valley of the shadow of death.
Though the fig tree does not bud/
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Thanks be to God for His awsome creation, human, animal, and the envieronment!