In the past week, I’ve read countless children’s books, wiped many runny noses, met with our RCIA candidates, sang silly potty-training songs, helped plan a funeral for a friend’s husband of 47 years, started two adult discussion groups, made meals and washed dishes, folded clothes and picked up toys, learned about tragedies near and far away, and, in the midst of all of this been animated by and drawn strength and meaning from my faith. My faith is everything to me, a part of everything I do and say.
Above all, that’s what I hope I am passing on to our little ones – a deep and abiding faith, one that is life-giving and sustaining in the midst of whatever comes.
Many of my days are unremarkable – filled with a mix of grace and laughter, monotony and routine, but unremarkable nonetheless. And then there are the other ones. You’ve had them, too, I’m sure. The ones you will always remember, as they hold moments that mark us forever. Joyful ones, painful ones, seemingly simple ones, and ones where we can hardly breathe, our hearts full of awe… or grief… or fear.
I’m thinking of the moments that shape us, that become a part of who we are, a part of our story… of those experiences after which we begin to ask new questions – or gain new insights – about who we are, who God is and what this whole world is about. I’m thinking of conversations and relationships from which we might draw strength and courage… or, alternatively, from which we emerge determined and emboldened, committed to do our part to create a better world.
Sometimes we have little or no control over these events, sometimes they are forced upon us. And yet – and this is important – we are always in control of the meaning we draw from them.
Last month when the shooting took place in Newtown, there was a quote that I saw over and over online from Fred Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Such an important perspective.
It reminded me of a scripture that a priest preached about in such a way that it became unforgettable. Like you I imagine, even if I enjoy a homily, there are few that stay with me. But, every so often, there’s one that just “clicks,” and my faith is never quite the same.
He preached on Gen 15:1-21, where God makes a covenant with Abram, saying: “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them… So shall your descendants be.” He talked about how since the sun later sets in the passage, it is likely that Abram was standing outside in the bright of day looking at a sky where no stars are visible. And yet, Abram would have known with certainty that there were, of course, an infinite number of stars out there. He was being asked to have confidence in what he could not see about his own future.
This priest, a visitor whose name I never knew, reminded all of us present that time and time again in the scriptures God makes a promise with each of us that we will never walk alone, promising to always be with us. Just as Abram was asked to trust, so too we would need to trust… and that just as Abram’s descendants came, so too, when we looked with eyes of faith we would discover the light of Christ piercing the darkest moments of our lives… and realize that truly God had been and always would be right there with us.
That’s an awareness I hope I pass on to our kids. When they look around – in the bright of day, on the cloudiest night – I hope that they will know that they are surrounded in infinite and intimate ways by God. I hope that in troubling moments, they will look for helpers and come to recognize the face of God, who always has and always will be companioning each one of us.