God calls us to trust beyond our own limits

Jesuit author Father John Cavanaugh was working at the Home for the Dying Destitutes in Calcutta, India. On the first morning, he met Mother Teresa after Mass at dawn. She asked, “And what can I do for you?” He asked her to pray for him: “Pray that I have clarity.” She said no. That was that.

When he asked why, she announced that clarity was the last thing he was clinging to and had to let go of. When he commented that she herself had always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed: “I have never had clarity; what I’ve always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust.”

Father Cavanaugh said that Mother Teresa became for him a member of that cloud of witnesses to which the Letter to the Hebrews refers: “heroes of faith, who had conviction about things unseen.”

Our ancestors described in Sunday’s readings showed this patient, abiding faith in God by trusting in his promise, which he wouldn’t even fulfill within their lifetimes. Abraham spent his entire life on a journey after God without a map, and without much evidence that God was going to honor his divine promises anytime in his life.

Can you imagine believing God would still give you descendents as numerous as the sands of the sea, when at 90 you were still childless? How many of us would wait that long for a promise that looked so unpromising?

God calls us to be faithful whether or not we live to see every riddle solved, every prayer answered or every injustice set right. For what makes the brief few years in our lives the limit for God’s activity? To believe in God beyond the limits of our own sight and even beyond the limits of our own lives calls us to abandon our impatience, let go of our fear and give ourselves trustingly to God’s gracious care.

When all else is ambiguous and unclear, the Lord speaks to us: “Be not afraid. Trust me.” And the heart of faith responds, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Father Dennis Hanneman is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha.

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