Sunday, August 7, 2016


Evidence of Things Not Seen

                                   Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
                                           and the evidence of things not seen.
                                                              Hebrews 11:1

I have been at this “priest thing” almost all of my life. I have never really wanted to be anything else. I first felt “called” when I was seven years old. I started seminary at age fourteen. I was ordained at twenty-six. I have been a priest now for forty-six years. A few years back, during the beginning of the sexual abuse scandal, for the first time in my life, I actually thought about quitting. I was so angry, disappointed, embarrassed and disillusioned that I thought about throwing in the towel, moving out of state and finding a job that had nothing to do with God, the church or priesthood.  I wanted to quit, but I didn’t – and I won’t!

I felt like Jeremiah who was called to be a prophet at a very tender age. Jeremiah gave his all to his job, but one day he reached the point where he wanted to quit. He screams at God, “You seduced me into taking this job and now I feel I was duped! I tell myself that I won’t mention your name ever again, but just as I do, a consuming love for your word burns in my heart. I can’t help myself. I can’t quit. I have to go on!”

When I was in my funk, the question I kept coming back to was this one: “Where is your faith placed?” Is it in priests? No! Is it in bishops? No! Is it in the Pope? No! They are merely “earthenware jars.” They hold the “treasure,” but they are not the “treasure.” Is it in organized religion? No! Organized religion, has and will always be, in need of reform. No, to leave would be to turn my back on God. Finally, I know enough scripture to know that I cannot have God without his church, no matter how many people try to have it that way.

No, to leave would be to turn my back on God. (1) How could I turn my back on the God who called me to be a priest, simply because of the gross sins of a handful of pathetic brother-priests and those who were misguided in their efforts to protect them?  (2) How could I turn my back on God who “adopted” me at baptism and made me a member of his family, the church? How could I victimize my parishioners again by leaving, when it has been severely wounded and in need of nursing care? How could I go off and leave my “faith family” in its time of need?

After my mind explored the possibility of leaving, after I wallowed in my depression for months, after I wrestled with the question of faith, I finally came to the realization that, if I have faith at all, then this is the time to prove it - by staying, by remaining faithful, by remembering why I am doing this to begin with!

 Today, Abraham is held up to us as a model of faith, and so he was! In fact, Eucharistic Prayer I refers to him as “our father in faith” because of his extraordinary ability to trust God, even when God’s promises seemed utterly impossible. Even at age 75 , Abraham did not bat an eye when God called him to leave his country, everything that was familiar to him, and head to a place unknown. He went simply because God told him to go. In his old age, when God told him that he would father a son, his first, one that he had longed for all his life, he did not bat an eye, despite all natural evidence to the contrary. Abraham and Sara were both senior citizens. When Abraham heard the news, he did not bat an eye, but believed that somehow god would do it. Sara, on the other hand, snickered with laughter when she heard the news, and worse yes, denied having laughed when God caught her. But the ultimate test of faith came when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his precious, one and only, son Isaac. Without batting an eye, Abraham prepared to kill his precious little boy in unflinching obedience, not knowing how God would keep his promise of making his descendants as numerous as the stars, if he did.

Do you have faith? No, I don’t mean do you believe this or that story or doctrine to be true. I mean, do you really trust God?  It's easier to believe in the Virgin Birth than it is to trust God when you have been diagnosed with cancer! Do you believe in things you can’t see, promises that haven’t been kept yet? Can you keep walking with God, even when you can’t see where you are going, even when your most precious things, relationships and  assumptions are taken away from you?

I am amazed at people who say they have “lost their faith” when an old church is renovated, when an altar rail is removed, a mass time is changed or when a priest disappoints them.  I am also struck when I hear that someone has lost their faith over the death of a loved one or a major health crisis. I don’t know what they lost, but it wasn’t faith! If faith only holds up when things are going fine, when the world is the way we like it, when we are blessed with all that life has to offer, then it is not faith. Faith is only faith when we cannot see where we are going or cannot understand the things that happen to us, when we are swamped by doubt and confusion. It is only then do we know whether we have faith or not. If we can go on loving and trusting God, after we hear the diagnosis of cancer, then we can say we have faith. If we go on loving and trusting God, after our house burns down, we lose our job and our friends abandon us, then we can say we have faith. If we can trust God after we have lost everything we can lose, then we can say we have faith.

If your faith hasn’t been tested yet, and it surely it will be, I hope you can, without batting and eye, keep on loving and trusting God in the darkness and confusion. If you can do that, then you will know whether you are really a man or woman of faith!


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful homily. I have been going through a rough spot in my priesthood for the last couple of years and this really helps me to have some perspective about my situation, feelings, and understanding. I think I will need to read this one again. Thanks for your good work.