Monday, April 30, 2018

How does faith look like?

To be sure, this is a very sensitive question, largely because faith at its core is personal. Let me clarify by stating from the onset that it doesn’t mean that it is personal and therefore it should be kept to oneself and no one outside of yourself should hear what you have to say about it.  It is personal because it takes shape in each person in a unique way, as unique as each person has his or her own individual set of fingerprints.

Our personal experience of faith is really a mélange or pastiche of each of our individual life experiences consisting of our joyful moments, our times of strife and anxieties, our very public moments, our ‘alone’ or extremely private moments, and most of all, it includes our saddest and most disconsolate of moments.  It is never one of these alone, though of course some of these may stand head and shoulders above the other moments. Because faith has everything to do with life, our faith takes on the very contours, the crests and troughs; the highs and lows of life.  

It usually isn’t difficult to say that God is at work when we are experiencing joys and successes in life.  Milestone events like births, weddings and college graduations are times when it is relatively easy to look up at the heavens and whisper a prayer of gratitude for these experiences of grace.  

But as a pastor of souls, I have come to see that faith is all the more needed and pivotal at those other times - moments when things are falling off the hinges. But the activation of our faith in these crucial moments is often never something that happens at the spur of the moment.  To believe that God is ultimately in control and has our best of intentions in his divine plan for each one of us is something that takes a very long time to build and strengthen.  

To be able to say that “it is ok” at heart-breaking moments we are standing beside the casket of a loved one who has died is an act of faith.  To be able to say this and mean it when the reason our loved one is in that casket because of a horrific traffic accident and was barely entering into life as a young adult is a very bold and courageous act of faith. In the same vein, to be able to say that God has my back when the doctor tells me that I have stage 4 cancer is as much an act of faith.  Faith at these moments takes a specific form – its form is the assurance that even though what is happening before our very eyes is seen to be a tragedy and even heart-wrenching, deeply troubling and most calamitous, there is a strength coming from outside of us, giving us the ability to say “it is indeed ok”.  This being ‘ok’ is not predicated on how good or lifted we are feeling inside, but that THE story isn’t over, even if the story of the person concerned seems to be.  The ground of this confidence comes from the belief that our individual stories are but threads that weave in and out of the warp and wefts of that enormous tapestry of God’s plan, and the one who deftly handles this loom is God. 

Unfortunately, faith at these times isn’t something that is summoned up at will or available at on speed dial a la Deliveroo or Food Panda.  It is, most of the time, the result of a long process of constantly being in touch with God’s divine presence in our lives, and this includes being familiar with Scripture from our younger days as school children, catechized consistently towards our Confirmation, being constant and dedicated in our prayer life in good times and in bad, and walking with God while being mindful of being in a state of grace.  While these may not guarantee that we will not quake in our shoes when the waves of tragedy or calamity reach the shores of our lives, they do the necessary work of ‘tilling the soil of our hearts’ and giving the seed of faith the nutrients to grow and mature.  

Here in Singapore, over the past few weeks, we have read of a few cruel and untimely deaths that have resulted from tragic road accidents.  I don’t have to have known these young lives personally to have an inkling of just how bereft their parents and family members and loved ones felt or are still feeling.  Words of comfort cannot reach where only faith can comfort and give strength. Courage at these times do not come in the form of stoicism and being able to stop the function of one’s tear ducts. 

Courage ultimately has to come in the form of our assured faith that our God has and still goes through our darkest moments because he went to Calvary’s cross for us, and that He does this because He loves us without condition.

1 comment:

  1. How does faith look like?

    It’s a gift - we are told! Unlike Christmas presents that are tinsel-wrapped, Faith looks more like the baptismal candle - freshly lit, looking resplendent in its virginal light, proudly presented to each neophyte at Easter Vigil, on Baptism Night.........when each is told that it’s the Light of Christ, keep it burning in your heart throughout your life.

    Alas, what is left unsaid is that the flame will flicker, wax and wane if left un-tended -for the melted wax (the busy-ness or humdrum of daily living) drips and gathers around the wick, dimming it’s glow. And so faith can grow strong and steadfast and it can falter and become weak, vulnerable, seemingly non-existent when buffetted by the cares of the world.

    Does one throw in the towel and walk away or contend with a tepid faith.....just like tepid tea, taking occasional sips just to slake the dryness of the throat and not the thirst? Is the striving for personal holiness and desire for a steadfast Faith a juvenile venture like the quest for the Holy Grail?

    It is in the ebb-tide of one’s spiritual journey in life that His Word and His Church ( the Faithful) become the rallying point. Sometimes it’s just a word of encouragement from a fellow-sojourner or a verse from the Scriptures that puts one back on track - such as the story of the great apostle Peter , whilst able to walk on water when his eyes were focused on Christ, had also moments when his faith was weak, which led him to deny the One whom he loved.

    Shakespeare in his Merchant of Venice had Portia exclaiming, “ far that little candle throws his beams.........” Likewise, Faith however candle-like in its light, warms, lights up and brightens our darkened room.....dispelling fear and ignorance.

    Thank you, Fr for bringing light to darkened rooms.

    God bless you.