Seeing and walking by faith: Reality at its best

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on the Second Sunday of Advent at the monthly Respect Life Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

As Catholics, we are men and women who see and walk by faith. As Scripture tells us, "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen" (cf. Heb 11:1), and very often we are called to believe what we cannot see. This is a beautiful gift! It allows us to know that the world around us is so much bigger than what the eye alone can see. Our world includes the visible and the invisible, the natural and the supernatural: all that we can perceive with our senses, as well as amazing beings and events that we cannot perceive, such as angels and saints interceding for us; the grace of God that strengthens us; the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ given to us at each Mass in the form of what our senses want to tell us is simply bread and wine. Faith allows us to see that as incredible as the visible world around us is, the supernatural world is even greater.

However, those who choose not to see with the eyes of faith will often accuse us Catholics, as well as men and women who practice other religions, of placing our hope in imaginary things. Those who do not want to trust beyond their senses, that is, what they can see, touch, hear, taste and smell, scoff at the believer and belittle his or her faith.

For example, this past week, after the tragedy that took place at the San Bernardino office park, many leaders and policymakers offered their prayers for the victims and their families during their time of need. In response, the New York Daily News offered the following headline: "God Isn't Fixing This." This headline, in large letters, was surrounded by quotations from social media, each one of which called for prayers or promised prayers of their own. To be fair, the reaction of the newspaper's editorial was one of anger, and the title of the article was likely aimed to shock and inspire legislative action. However, the headline revealed a complete misunderstanding of prayer and a disrespectful view of those who place their trust in God. In fact, the subheading said that the promises of prayer were nothing but "meaningless platitudes" (New York Daily News, December 3, 2015). Yes, in the modern world that surrounds us, there are many who judge those of us who see and walk by faith as old-fashioned, out-of-touch, and perhaps even foolhardy. How can we place our trust in a God that we cannot see? To them, it is illogical.

Even for us who see and walk by faith, there are times when we wish God would show His face to us or speak to us in an audible voice. There are times of tragedy when we are tempted to think that Jesus is ignoring us, times of great strife when we are tempted to say, "God is not fixing this!" Yes, there are times when faith is hard, and in those times we desire that we could just watch God fix everything, and faith would not be required of us at all. Of course, it is in these times when our faith is needed most of all.

I celebrate a Respect Life Mass each month at a parish in the Diocese of Arlington. Typically, it takes place on Saturday, and after Mass I lead the rosary at a nearby abortion facility. Due to scheduling conflicts this month, I had to move my monthly Respect Life Mass to this Mass on a Sunday at our Cathedral. As we gather to pray for the prolife cause, we can all agree that our faith is tested in a culture that continues to violate human life and the gift of human sexuality. As we attend the March for Life each year, or when we learn about another state that has legalized physician assisted suicide, we might be tempted to say in our frustration, "God is not fixing this."

In a special way, today I am also mindful of those families who have suffered the loss of a child. Parents who lose an infant in miscarriage, or stillbirth, and who have an acute understanding of the gift and value of human life from the moment of conception, might find themselves asking in the midst of their grief why God would allow this to happen. It is a natural reaction to such a tragic loss, but as Flannery O'Connor, the Catholic author once wrote, "One of the tendencies of our age is to use the suffering of children to discredit the goodness of God, and once you have discredited his goodness, you are done with him" ("Introduction to a Memoir of Mary Ann," Mystery and Manners, 1957).

As we gather here this morning, let us pray for mothers and fathers who have lost an infant, so that they might allow this suffering to move them to take another step in faith in an all loving God. With the eyes of faith, these couples will not discredit God's goodness and be done with Him. Rather, they will witness to the world about the sanctity of human life, even from the first moment of conception.

We must always remember that faith is a gift from God, and that when we struggle with our believing, with seeing with the eyes of faith, we must pray to our Loving Father that He increase our faith. In those moments, it also helps to recall the historical reality that Jesus Christ came among us in the flesh to bolster our faith, to show His love and mercy, and, most importantly, to free us from sin and to grant us eternal life.

This week and throughout the remaining days of Advent, let us listen attentively to what both the Prophet Baruch and the Precursor of Christ John the Baptist are telling us and let us put their counsel into practice with the help of God's transforming grace. Let us level the mountains of pride and self-sufficiency which keep us from seeing clearly with the eyes of faith. Let us fill in the valleys and the gorges of our lack of faith-filled trust in the Lord with daily efforts to surrender in joyful hope, so that we may walk securely by faith. In this way, we can truly set out in haste to meet the Son of God, Our Lord and Savior, at His every coming to us. With the eyes of faith, His every coming is real!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015