Recently I was asked to reflect upon the basic principles that permeate the heart, mind and actions of a disciple who responds as a Christian steward. In essence, what needs to exist in order for us to joyfully walk in the footsteps of Jesus and give witness in word and action to the love and salvation that has been afforded us in Jesus Christ? What is foundational to being people of gratitude, prayer, serving and sharing?
One of the most important is trust. Hanging on the door in my office I have the Scripture passage from Proverbs (3:56) that says it well: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence, rely not; in all your ways be mindful of him and he will make straight your path.” I believe faith and trust in God opens the door for amazing possibilities, both personally and in our parishes.
I remember the “no fear” marketing campaign of the ’80s and ’90s which was targeted at participation in a variety of sports. It encouraged people to step up, be strong and be brave. Many of the outdoors men and women proved their courage in events such as bungee jumping. Many achievers spent their courage in pushing their limits to “become the best” or in their own self-actualization. There is something to be said for that. As a culture, we enjoy watching people do amazing and sometimes dangerous things with what seems to be “no fear.” I wonder if they approached all the areas of their life with the same courage.
For you and me, the “no fear” or “have faith” message is found throughout the Scriptures. Jesus seems to value people of faith and seems to be sad when people lack faith. We remember the “blind beggar” in Luke (18:35-43), when he asked for his sight to be restored and Jesus responded: “Have sight, your faith has saved you.”
Also, in the “healing of the centurion’s servant” in Matthew (8:5-13), when he announces: “Amen I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Similarly, he expresses disappointment when his followers exhibit a lack of faith like with Thomas in John’s Gospel (20:29): Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are they who have not seen yet believed.”
So how do I live and make daily decisions with a “no fear, no anxiety frame of mind?” I’m an imperfect human and life’s questions can be formidable: What will people think? Will I have enough? Who will take care of me? Will I be alone?
When I come face to face with my Creator one day, I want not just my words but my very life to reflect my faith. I want to be counted as a believer who makes a difference. Pope Francis says that we can understand and find hope in our most basic proclamation of our faith. He states: “Jesus loves you. He gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you” (Joy of the Gospel n. 164). Yes, we can trust in the Lord with all of our heart.
One of the most wonderful explanations of trust came to me recently in my daily reflection with Henri Nouwen. He likens trust in God to trapeze artists. He said one person is known for beautiful double, triple and quadruple flips. They take our breath away. However, it is the catcher who is there at the right moment to perfect the move. Nouwen said much of our lives are spent flying and God is our Catcher. We need to trust the Catcher.
If we have faith, we see everything differently including our calendars, our money and death itself. I believe that building faith and trust in God is the work of a lifetime and, as communities, we pray and walk together to challenge and encourage each other. We help each other to trust again when circumstances cause us to waiver. It is one of the blessings of truly belonging and being engaged in a parish.
Maybe you and I can sit down with the Catcher and discern if we are truly using our talents in service and our treasure in sharing in a faith-filled and trusting way. Perhaps, in 2017, some of our most beautiful “no fear moves” will involve generosity so our parishes can bring Jesus more fully to our communities, neighborhoods and world.
Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.