A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘trust

Everything we eat, wear and use in our daily lives results from the efforts of many people, so one of the guided meditations in an app I’ve been using reminded me.

North American society, however, places a high value not on interdependence but on independence and even self-reliance. Our culture praises people who succeed “on their own” by relying on their talents and instincts.

This perspective runs counter to the words I read today in Proverbs 3:5-8*:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own insight.

In all your ways acknowledge him

and he will make straight your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes;

fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your flesh

and refreshment to your bones.

Our wisdom and knowledge aren’t meant to go to waste, but we need God’s perspective on the ways we should use them. If we go full speed ahead with our plans without talking things over with God, we may miss out on the wonderful plans he has for us. We may have good intentions, but the way we act on them may not bring the greatest benefit to others. We may think we understand a problem, but we may not know as much as we believe.

Imagine a natural disaster occurred in a foreign country and an aid agency here decided what people needed and shipped it without consulting aid workers already on the ground in the disaster zone. The shelter and equipment might not work well in that climate, or perhaps the food and water purification supplies would be inadequate given the size of the affected area and the number of people involved.

Imagine instead that the leaders of this same organization prayed about how to respond, and the Holy Spirit pointed them to the people in the disaster zone who knew what and how much their people needed—and maybe that the scope of the disaster was even greater than the aid agency knew. What a difference relying on the Lord would make!

But relying on God means listening for his answer to our prayers, which may not come with a supernatural sign the way it would in a movie-of-the-week. Look at the example of Elijah meeting God at Mount Horeb in 1 Kings 19:11-13:

And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

I pray that we would be thankful for the wisdom and knowledge we gain but that we would not try to do everything in our own strength, trusting instead that God has a plan for us and listening for that still small voice to guide us.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

~ Hebrews 11:1*

If we call ourselves people of faith, others may make certain assumptions about us.

For example, they may assume that we observe Christmas and Easter, attend church on a regular basis, and say grace at meals. And they also may assume we never question that God hears us, answers our prayers, and has good plans for us.

Yet, being human, we can’t always understand God’s ways and plans. We need to turn to God in prayer and return to the scriptures, which will show us that we’re not alone in wondering about God’s plans:

  • In Genesis 18:9-15, we read about God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah that, despite their age, they would soon have a son. But Sarah laughed in disbelief.
  • In Matthew 14:25-33, we read about Jesus’ walking on the water to the disciples’ boat. Jesus told Peter to come to him on the water, but when Peter saw the wind, he became afraid and asked Jesus to save him from drowning.
  • In Luke 1:18-23, we read that Zechariah didn’t believe the angel Gabriel’s message that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a child in their old age.

We also find reassurance that not only does God love us, but he also hears and answers our prayers, in his time and according to his plans. We see Jesus brought healing and life to those with strong faith:

  • In Matthew 8:5-13, we read about a centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant with just a word, as he was not worthy to have Jesus come to his home. Jesus healed the servant, saying, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
  • In Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26, we read about a ruler who believed that Jesus could restore his daughter to life with a touch, and Jesus did so.
  • In Matthew 9:20-22, we read about a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years but believed that she would be healed simply by touching the fringe of Jesus’ clothes, and Jesus healed her, saying, “(Y)our faith has made you well.”
  • In Matthew 9:27-31, we read about two blind men who told Jesus they believed he could heal them, and he restored their sight, saying, “According to your faith let it be done to you.”
  • In Matthew 15:21-28, we read about a Canaanite woman who had such strong faith that Jesus could deliver her daughter from demonic possession that he healed her child, saying, “O woman, great is your faith!”

And in Hebrews 11, we read about more faith-filled people.

As the Catechism tells us, faith “is an entirely free gift that God makes to man” (s. 162) and gives us a foretaste of heaven (s. 163), and a greater knowledge of God and his works will increase our faith (s. 158).

If we struggle to trust in the plans God has for us, I pray that we would remember we aren’t alone in this, that we would be encouraged by the example of the faithful people who have gone before us, and that we would pray to God to increase our faith day by day.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

This past weekend, after weeks of preparation, my parish church got a thorough cleaning. And I got a lesson in trust.

I mentioned in an April post that some parishioners had noticed cobwebs and dust that needed taking care of—and that led us to wonder what else needed doing. I asked my husband to bring this to our Pastoral Council, and the Council approved a clean-up day. Which I ended up organizing and preparing for.

Secretly, I’m sure my husband and my son were grateful I wasn’t organizing and preparing for a clean-up of our garage or basement storage areas.

In any case, I thought I had things under control. I e-mailed lots of people about cleaning out closets in the parish hall. I put notices in the announcements and in the bulletin for several weeks and posted sign-up sheets.

The closets didn’t get cleaned out. Only seven people signed up to help. And then two of those people couldn’t come owing to other commitments.

I spent weeks stressed out, making repeated trips to the church to sort, purge and clean, and I wondered how I’d get everything done. At the same time, I was stressed out by being on the receiving end of some harsh e-mails about a church project.

I should have known better and had a little faith in God’s timing and plans. Because, in the end, it did all come together.

On Saturday morning, I arrived at the church early to set up. I realized that just clearing up some of the storage spaces in the parish hall made the clean-up a success. But I still wondered how many people would show up.

Thanks to my husband’s update on the project to Pastoral Council and an e-mail sent by a parishioner who supported me throughout the process, I found myself with nine helpers. And together, we accomplished more than I could have hoped. In just five hours, we demolished dust bunny colonies in nooks and crannies of the church, vacuumed rugs, washed floors, polished pews, and changed light bulbs.

dusty piano

My love of dusting shines through…

Back at home, refreshed after a good shower to wash away the dust and fortified by a simple but tasty lunch, I realized three things:

  • First, I should have trusted that God would provide what was needed—in this case, people power—if this was something he wanted to happen. As Mother Teresa said, “God hasn’t called me to be successful. He’s called me to be faithful.”
  • Second, I should have leaned on God and prayed more for his help instead of trying to make it all happen in my own strength.

The LORD is my strength and my shield;

in him my heart trusts;

so I am helped, and my heart exults,

and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalm 28:7*)

  • And third, no one can add stress to my life. I create my own stress by the way I respond to events and the things others say, and I need to remember this verse:

With the LORD on my side I do not fear.

What can man do to me?

The LORD is on my side to help me. . . .

The LORD is my strength and my song;

he has become my salvation. (Psalm 118:6-7a, 14)

May we remember to pray that our plans line up with God’s plans, to ask him to meet our needs, and to lean on him before stress gets the better of us.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Though the power of Omnipotence had been his to wield at that moment, he had too much of its diviner property of Mercy in his breast, to have turned one feather’s weight of it against her.

– Charles Dickens, The Cricket on the Hearth

When children think of mercy, they might think of the game where one person tries to bend another’s wrists back until he or she cries, “Mercy!”

As adults, we know mercy is a gift that we don’t deserve but that God gives us out of love. The Catechism tells us in s. 270 that “God reveals his fatherly omnipotence…by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins.”

With the events of Holy Week still fresh in our minds, God’s love for and mercy toward us should be as plain as day. But as the Redemptorist priest speaking at my parish’s mission said, people may go to confession and receive absolution from a priest and yet find it hard to believe God could actually forgive them.

Since this will be the first Sunday after Easter, Catholics will mark Divine Mercy Sunday. If you are new to the Catholic Church, you can learn more by reading Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska and visiting The Divine Mercy Message from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception website.

As the site tells us, the message “is that God loves us—all of us. And, he wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others.”

We need to grasp that truth: our sins may be great, but God’s mercy is greater. We can place our trust in God, who has told us (see Exodus 34:6) and shown us that he is merciful. And we in turn can show that mercy to others.

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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