Pastor Speaks – February 2017

All of us need to reawaken our faith. In his Gospel, Matthew refers us to an incident where Jesus reproaches the apostles for their lack of faith. Without mincing words, Jesus calls them: “men of little faith” (cf. Mt 8, 26). One day the apostles were crossing the Sea of Galilee on a rather fragile boat. Jesus was with them, which had actually guaranteed all safety. But instead, at the breaking of an unexpected storm they were greatly alarmed and taken by fear and shouted and cried for help, but strangely Jesus was described as sleeping. He got up and reproached the wind and the sea: and there was a great calm. Turning to the disciples he said: “Why were you so afraid, men of little faith!” Struck by wonder and amazement, that the two elements of wind and water obeyed him like two gentle lambs, they asked each other: Who could this be, even the Sea and the wind obey him?” (Mt 8, 27).

Later the apostles understood who He was and laid down their lives for him shouting aloud their faith in Jesus.

Do we have such faith that resists the temptations of storms? What would Jesus tell us about our weak and fragile faith?

John Paul I who had a brief pontificate, as short as a smile, in his Wednesday General audience of 13 September, 1978 said:

Here in Rome there was a poet, Trilussa, who also tried to speak of faith. In a certain poem of his, he said:

“That little old blind woman, whom I met / the evening I lost my way in the middle of the wood, /
said to me: —If you don’t know the way / I’ll accompany you, for I know it /

If you have the strength to follow me /
from time to time I’ll call to you, right to the bottom there, where there is a cypress,/ right to the top there, where there is a cross. I answered: that may be … but I find it strange /
that I can be guided by someone sightless … / The blind woman, then, took my hand / and sighed: Come on. —It was faith.”

As a poem, it is delightful; as theology, defective. It is defective because when it is a question of faith, the great stage manager is God. Because Jesus said: “No one comes to me unless my Father draws him”. St Paul did not have faith, in fact he was persecuting the faithful. God waits for him on the way to Damascus: “Paul”, he says to him, “don’t take it into your head to rear up, to kick, like a restive horse. I am that Jesus whom you are persecuting. I need you. You must change!” Paul surrendered; he changed, leading a completely different life. Some years afterwards, he will write to the Philippians: “that time, on the way to Damascus, God seized me; since then I have done nothing but run after him, to see if I, too, am able to seize him, imitating him, loving him more and more.”

Faith is the only light we have to test the meaning of life in the midst of darkness of suffering and the night of evil that surrounds us and lives in us. Faith guarantees that taken by hand by Christ, we can leave our evil ways; faith also guarantees that the victorious in history will be the humble, the meek, the merciful, the pure of heart and the peace- makers.

In spite of all this we still are not able to understand the beauty and the preciousness of our faith in Lord Jesus. So as to understand this aspect, it is better we listen to the experiences of those people who knew what it means to live a life without faith and experienced that bitterness of missing faith.

A woman from Ukraine spoke to Cardinal Comastri during his time as a parish priest in Porto Santo Stefano. She said she was brought up in the country of total Atheism. In school they were brainwashed and had no more questions to ask about God or religion. She was made to believe that life was matter of chance and had no meaning whatsoever beyond. She thought she was a kind of a transformed monkey by an error of transmission of DNA. As she made her escape to Italy, she found there, faith and Jesus illuminating this faith and giving a meaning to it. But she said that in Italy though there is faith, people do not appreciate it nor realize how precious this is for lives. “May be because” she said “you did not suffer to arrive at it”.

Our annual Feast of Gunadalamatha is being organized with new spirit and enthusiasm. May be, it is time that we too have to take up the basic question of “faith”. Let our prayer be that all the pilgrims that come here may have an increase of their faith. In Lourdes shrine, France, the new miracles that take place are the miracles of faith and many go back home

with a firm decision to practice their faith. Faith is manifested by what God does in Jesus. Matthew gives the story of Jesus working in the lives of the others. “When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor (Mt 11, 2-5).

The good news is that God’s power is active in the healings of Jesus. Experiencing the power of God, the people are supposed to “repent”, that is, turn back to God, away from their self-centredness and the temptations of Satan as Jesus did in the desert. Turning back to God would mean surrendering oneself to God so that the same power of God may be active in oneself. To believe in the Gospel means then to surrender to God, to commit oneself to God, to let God be active in one’s life. This experiential aspect is particularly helpful to assist each other in our faith journey. Once we have experienced God then we can talk about God – not only what God does, but also what God is – of course. But then we do not have to take it ‘on faith’, because we are talking about our experience and what we can infer from it. If we do not have this experience then no amount of ‘faith’ can substitute for it (M. Amaldoss, S.J.). As Clergy and religious let’s keep this fact in mind and help our brothers and sisters around to feel that God’s power is active in their lives and live in that grace.

+ Thelagathoti J. Raja Rao, S.M.M.
Bishop of Vijayawada