Nothing ever seemed to come easily to Father Allen.
During the years that he trained for the priesthood, he struggled with his studies barely passing many of his classes. He hoped that after ordination things would become easier, but they did not. He could not find anything that he was good at. Preaching did not come easily to him. Whether it was visiting the sick in the hospital, working with young people or preparing couples for marriage, he felt as though he were all thumbs. Though he never doubted that he had been called to be a priest, he wondered what God saw in him to think he was worthy of such a lofty vocation.
It all came crashing down on him, however, on the day when he received a call from his bishop that he would be made the pastor of a small rural parish. All the self-doubts about his lack of ability caused a panic attack. The anxiety of years of struggling had worn him down. The thought of shouldering the responsibility of a parish on his own weighed heavily on him. Just at the moment he was about to call the bishop back to tell him that he could not take on the assignment, the words of Jesus in today’s gospel came to his mind: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”
It felt as though a storm had passed, the clouds had parted and the sun was finally shining down on him. He was not alone. If Jesus had called him to be a priest, he would be by his side through it all. Rather than rely on his own strength and talents, he would hand everything over to Jesus and let him carry him through.
This new insight made all the difference in Father Allen’s life and ministry. His preaching took on a new vigor as he urged his congregation to give their lives over in trust to their Heavenly Father. Putting aside his self-doubts, he took on challenges he used to avoid because of his fear of failure. Because he was more relaxed, he found it easier to spend time with people. As it turned out, his lack of talents and abilities was not a weakness but a strength because it caused him to rely more and more on Jesus. Not only did it transform him personally, but it renewed the parish he pastored.
As we gather here today, what is troubling your hearts? Are your having difficulties in your homes? Is your sickness or that of a loved one weighing heavily upon you? Are you facing a challenge that you feel you cannot handle? Whatever it may be, listen again to Jesus’ words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”
None of us has to face the burdens of life alone. Jesus is there to carry them along with us. It is simply a matter of turning to Him and asking Him to help. It is simply a matter of saying, “Jesus, I trust you.” Our difficulties will not disappear overnight. We will still shed tears and maybe even lie awake at night wondering how we will overcome the obstacles that stand in our way. However, we will approach our lives with new confidence. Also we will come to understand just how little depends on us, just how little control we really have, and begin to worry less as Jesus starts putting the pieces of the puzzle together for us.
As we grow in trust, something else will happen. We will become less focused on ourselves and our problems and more sensitive to the needs of those around us. The gospel reading today is taken from Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper. Though He is about to be put to death, He is consoling His disciples. Rather than wallowing in fear over the tortures He was about to face, He was concerned with how His apostles were feeling. That is because of His absolute trust that His Heavenly Father would provide for Him.
When we put our lives in God’s hands, we have the same experience. As our burdens seem lighter, we will have the strength to help others carry theirs. As our sorrows seem less painful, we will reach out to console others. As we are less focused on ourselves, we begin to enjoy our lives more and put our problems in perspective. Growing closer to Jesus through a living faith, we experience His peace day in and day out no matter what the circumstances of our life may be.
After we have professed our faith and offered our prayers for the Church and the world, we will bring up the bread and wine which will be consecrated into the Body and Blood of Jesus. This is a good time for us to include with those gifts all the problems that vex us. Placing on the altar our anxieties, illnesses, worries and frustrations, we allow them to be transformed by the saving mercy of God. When we go home, it is an image we can carry with us. Every time we feel overwhelmed or incapable of handling a situation, in our mind we can place it on the altar and ask God to transform it. We will then grow in trust that our Heavenly Father is in control and that He will make all things work out for our good.
Jesus reassures His disciples, “...whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these because I am going to the Father.” If Jesus calls us to do “great works”, it is because He is the one who will be at work in us. If we believe in Him - if we trust Him with every aspect of our lives - than we will experience great things happening. It all begins with trust.