Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4 / 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14 / Lk 17:5-10
One Saturday morning, two young missionaries were going door to door with their Bibles, when they came to a dilapidated old house surrounded by weeds, barking dogs, and screaming, runny-nosed kids. The doorbell was dead, so they knocked long and hard on the rickety screen door. Finally the woman of the house stopped her scrubbing over a tub and washboard, brushed the hair and perspiration from her face, and asked what they wanted.
“We’d like to tell you how to obtain eternal life,” they answered.
The weary housewife paused for a moment and then replied, “Thank you both very much, but I just don’t think I could stand it!”
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Life can bear down upon us pretty hard at times, and we can feel very weary and mighty alone: Where did God go? Sometimes it’s just the weight of being human in this imperfect world: Trapped in fragile bodies, worn down by troubles and tragedies not of our own making, or maybe just oppressed by the inevitable repetitiveness of daily life. Sometimes the troubles are of our own making, the inescapable consequences of our own mistakes and sins — and there are so many!
But whether we’ve done it to ourselves, or it’s just happened to us, when big troubles come we can feel both desperate and afraid. And that’s when we’re faced with a crucial choice: Fight or flight; run away or hold to course. The temptation to flee is immense, and under that pressure, our thinking can get very fuzzy.
On the one hand, there are plenty of times when we do need to let go and move on: Let go of grievances and hates; let go of bad ideas and of sick relationships; let go of paralyzing grief and paralyzing fear. That kind of letting go and moving on isn’t running away. It’s facing life and accepting its challenges and its limitations.
But there’s another side of life, where we have to make our stand where we are. First of all, our commitments to each other and to God: There’s no negotiating out of them. And then our absolute responsibility to heal the hurts we’ve caused and to right the wrongs we’ve done. For the follower of Jesus, there can be no negotiating or running away from them. How often we’ve heard the cliché, “It’s time to put this behind us and get on with our life.” Sometimes that’s the truth, but too often it’s just code for walking away from commitments and walking away from the damage and hurt we’ve done.
For followers of Jesus, for people of integrity, that just won’t do, and it doesn’t have to, because, as St. Paul says, “the Spirit that God has given us is no cowardly spirit, but one that makes us strong, loving and wise.”
If we are connected to the Spirit of God — that’s what it means to have faith — nothing is beyond our reach. There is no burden that cannot be borne, no hurt or damage that cannot be healed, no ugliness that cannot be faced. And even in the midst of tragedy, peace will dwell in our hearts.
We can be faithful because the Holy Spirit who dwells in us is faithful — in good times and bad.
Trust the power of the Spirit, be faithful, and you will live!