In June of 1859, Charles Blondin stretched a tightrope a quarter mile across Niagara Falls. No one had ever attempted such a feat before, and a large crowd gathered to witness the event. To their amazement and delight he crossed over the roaring waters not just once but several times. They were wrapped in wonder as he crossed the falls backwards, with a blindfold on and then in a burlap bag. For his final act, he walked from one side to the other pushing a wheelbarrow. As the crowd erupted in applause, he asked them, “Do you believe that I could walk across the falls with someone in the wheelbarrow?” “We do! We do!”, they excitedly replied. “Well then,” he said, “who wants to get in?”
The crowd grew silent. No one was willing to take up his challenge. Though they professed a belief that he could take them safely across, no one was willing to stake his or her life on it.
We have gathered here today to profess and celebrate our belief in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ. We believe that He can do all things and that He loves us. We believe that He died for us and that in His name we have forgiveness of sins. We believe that He has poured out the Holy Spirit upon us making us His children. Are we willing to stake our lives on that belief? Are we willing to give up our possessions, our time and our comfort to do what He commands us? Are we willing to face life’s challenges with hope and patience knowing that God will make all things work for our good? True faith is not only to believe that God can carry us through any difficulty, but to actually place ourselves in His hands and allow Him to carry us across.
Today’s first reading is taken from the prophet Habakkuk. It was written during a particularly difficult period in Israel’s history. The countryside had been ravaged by war. Poverty, disease and hunger were everywhere. The future was uncertain. It seemed that God had abandoned His people. The prophet begs God to show Himself and put an end to the misery all about him. When God finally does show Himself, He reassures Habakkuk that He has not abandoned His people. Rather, His plan is working itself out even in the midst of war, violence and suffering. God tells him and us that the just person is the one who trusts God even when tragedies arise. Unlike the rash person, they do not abandon their beliefs because they become difficult. Therefore, because they persevere in doing God’s will, they will receive His promise of salvation.
Nothing can deter God’s plan. No events of history, no matter how earth shaking, can thwart God’s will. We have to trust that He has everything under control, and that no matter how difficult our situation may appear, He will make it turn out for our good. Though we do not see clearly the road ahead of us and though it may seem impossible to believe that everything will turn out well, we have to place ourselves in His hands and allow him to carry us across.
We are living through a particularly difficult time in the Church’s history. Though we live relatively comfortable and peaceful lives, our spirits are assaulted daily by despair, doubt and worry. We are told that our faith has no place in the modern world. The media tempt us continually with images of all the pleasures a materialistic, self-centered life could bring us. Even worse, the scandals within the Church over the past decades shake our trust in our religious leaders. For these reasons, many have stopped believing. Many have chosen to leave. No doubt, many of us here have asked ourselves why we stay. The only possible answer is that we find Jesus here. No matter what the world may offer us, no matter what doubts may arise, in our hearts we know that Jesus will be here for us. And we trust that no matter what difficulties life may present us with, His plan is working itself out in our lives and in our world. And because we have trusted and stuck it out, we are beginning to see His promises unfold in our lives.
In today’s gospel, when the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith, he responds that faith is not a matter of size but of strength. The smallest of faiths can uproot the sycamore. In another place, Jesus says it can move mountains. The apostles were correct, nonetheless, in desiring more faith and in recognizing Jesus as the source of that faith.
Our faith grows in strength when we profess it and live it even though everyone around us is making different choices. God strengthens our faith when we make decisions that go against our own comfort and desires because we believe His commandments are true. When we give up possessions and leave behind a materialistic lifestyle to live according to Jesus’ words, then our faith multiplies. It moves the hearts and minds of those whom we meet. It uproots sin and ignorance. It casts into the sea selfishness and hatred. When we place ourselves in God’s hands and trust that He will carry us across though we cannot see the way ahead, then He will reward us abundantly.
As we stand to profess our faith in an all-powerful God, let us entrust ourselves, our world and our Church to Him and commit to living His word with renewed fervor and confidence.