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Keeping Faith Alive (15)

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

Be in your prayer space, follow the usual steps and settle into silence.

Sit still…..Relax…….Do not rush………

Take a couple of gentle, slow and deep breaths…becoming aware of your breath going in and out… stay focused on this breath of life……

Now from the depth of your heart begin to wish your mind well……….

Take a moment. Bless your day. Let your day Bless you……Take another moment. Bless your world. Let your world bless you……

Every day that we wake up is a good day. Every breath that we take is filled with hope for a better day. Every word that we speak is a chance to change what is bad into something good…….Now from the depth of heart, wish your mind well……

 

Now I invite you to consecrate this day and all that come with this day….in your own way, in humble, simple, may be even inadequate words………..

I pray for you and I invite you to pray for each other and for all, who, at this moment, are receiving the gift of this new day!

We continue our meditation on keeping our faith alive. Our last meditation was on keeping our faith alive by living noble and virtuous lives, by practicing of Christian virtues. And that is what should keep our faith alive today.

It is not always easy to live noble and virtuous lives when the contrary is much simpler and easier. We live with many limitations, weaknesses and imperfections. We also live in a society that does not always encourage virtuous living. It takes courage and lots of it to live noble and virtuous lives, to keep our faith alive.

It takes a lifetime of striving, struggling, making mistakes, failing and yet with much success and joy to learn to live authentic and faithful lives. It often means leaving the past in the hands of the Lord, starting over and making new beginnings. Glory is not in never failing but in rising every time you fall and keep going…..

The prophet Isaiah called his people to leave the past behind and celebrate the wonderful things that the Lord was doing in their life… “Remember not the past…see I am doing something new…don’t you see…I provide for my people all their needs”, says the Lord (Isaiah 43:16-21).

God was doing something new…God himself was beginning again. Now His people must do the same…they must leave the past behind! The past may have been terrible….may have been great…but it is not with us now.

The story of Ruth is a story of making new beginnings several times over. Famine in the land of Judah forced Naomi, her husband Elimelech, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, to leave Bethlehem and migrate to Moab and make a new beginning. But their fortunes worsen in this alien land. Naomi’s husband and two sons died, leaving her and now the three widows have to make new beginnings. Naomi came to know that there was once again food in Bethlehem and decided to return home to begin again. She encouraged her daughters in law to return to their homes and start over. Orpha went home to start over with her family and her people while Ruth began a new journey with Naomi.

Together Ruth and Naomi began a journey that neither could make alone. But it had a different meaning for each. For Naomi it was a return, through loss, grief, and anger, to a renewed hope. For Ruth, it was a venture into the unknown, to a people, a way of life, and a God different from all she had known.

Naomi did not stay stuck in bitterness; she would not let Ruth become prey to degradation and hunger. They made brave choices, using whatever power they had. The brave and bold decisions of Naomi and Ruth both embody and bring about God’s blessings and brought about radical change in the story of the covenant relationship between Israel and God.

Keeping faith alive means making new and brave choices, to move forward with courage and determination.

In the Gospel of Luke (Luke 9:28-36), we read about the voice of God declaring Jesus as the “beloved Son” and calling all disciples to listen to him. In the presence of Jesus, transfigured in glory, Peter, James and John felt secure, happy, at home. They felt they had reached the end of their journey and they were not ready to move on – they just wanted to stay in their experience of comfort, joy, security and glory. But, Jesus called them to move on, to begin again. The journey of Jesus was not complete and the disciple’s journey was not complete either. They had to leave this experience, come down the mountain and accept life with all its joys and sorrows, even accept the cross and eventual death. They had to continue their journey into the unknown, uncertain and insecure future. They had to walk in mystery!

Our fidelity to God calls us to journey, to move on, our roots sunk into no earthly place, our source of security in God alone….keeping our faith alive on the road!

Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days’ work” he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?”

“Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor, in fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence – an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place anymore. Cool him down, anyhow.”

The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”

The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped.

There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge… a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work handrails and all – and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. “No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother.

“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but, I have many more bridges to build.”

They, all three, had to make new choices and start over.

Be faithful! Never give up! Try again and again! Take a different approach…. try something that has not been tried before! Keeping faith alive often means trying something different and trying something that seems impossible.

Troubles come into every life. No one escapes them. We can and we must keep our faith alive even in those troublesome times. We can take adversity and turn it into advantage, take a burden and turn it into a blessing.

We can always make new choices, take a different approach, a new approach, try something that had not been tried before.

One of the most important learning for me over the years has been that failure is not the end. Failure can be a good teacher if we let it be. There is an old saying, “failure is the stepping stone to success”. It definitely can be, if we let it be! Men and women of faith never give up. Their faith allows them to keep trying, to hang on and keep doing the best possible under given circumstances.

Another important learning for me over the years has been that we don’t have to be perfect and being faithful and faith-filled doesn’t mean being perfect. Keeping faith alive does mean beginning again, starting over, learning from failures, recognizing imperfections, being courageous at turning points, accepting incompleteness…..most of all striving for excellence, NOT perfection.

Striving for excellence means raising the quality of our presence in the world, growing in Grace, nurturing virtues, using our talents, abilities, and skills in the best way possible, being and doing our best……most important, beginning again, starting over and moving on.

Paul advised the Philippians to set their priorities straight as he had. The past does not matter, “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Phi

Take a moment and pray…

God grant me, 
        The serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
        Courage to change the things I can,
        And the Wisdom to know the difference.
        Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
        Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
        Taking as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
        Trusting that He will make all things right,
        If I surrender to His will;
        That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
        And supremely happy in the next. (Reinhold Niebuhr)

Let us strive to be true to ourselves, to be authentic in all we say and do, to be steadfast in living our faith and keep our faith alive. May the “Year of Faith” be God’s wonderful gift to you and I pray that you will make it a gracious and joyful gift to others.

Keep your faith alive and your faith will keep you alive!

Fr. Gus Tharappel, msfs