“Do not be afraid, just have faith!” Jesus speaks these words of reassurance in today’s Gospel to the synagogue official who rushes up to the Master because his little daughter who was gravely ill has now died. It is difficult to imagine the thoughts and feelings that might go through the mind and heart of a parent on hearing the death of their son or daughter. Whether that moment may have come as a result of some devastating childhood illness or a tragic and unexpected accident, there is probably no more painful and traumatic human experience than to face the death of one’s child. For the skeptical and cynical of this world, it might be easy to conclude that these words of Jesus were perhaps a “throw away line” from the famous rabbi. But for those who were willing to break out of the hard-hearted skepticism that can so easily imprison one into a world of meaninglessness, these words opened a new door of hope for this synagogue official and his family. That hope would not, of course, leave him disappointed. With the divine touch of the Master, Jesus would raise the little girl from her sleep of death and return her to her grateful parents.
“Do not be afraid, just have faith.” My friends, the Lord continues to speak those words to us in the midst of whatever challenges, disappointments, frustrations and tragedies we may have to face in life’s journey. Few of us, perhaps, will taste the bitterness of the death of a child, but all of us at some moment will be confronted with the inevitable tragedies that life will bring. While we would all like to think that our life will be freed from the tensions and tragedies that so many endure, in our heart of hearts, we know that it is only a matter of time when we experience the inevitable loss of a loved one, the bitterness of personal failure, the darkness that wrestling with a deep seated sin or habit will plunge us into. In the midst of these challenges, it is the Lord who again speaks his words of promise, “Do not be afraid, just have faith.”
That faith, however, is not a mindless pie in the sky wishful thinking but rather a conviction that is grounded in the fact that we never live that faith alone. As Christians, faith is always a shared reality, a profound realization that we are indeed our brother’s and our sister’s keeper. Having faith means that we need not face the uncertain future alone. Our sisters and brothers who are indeed the Body of Christ companion us, strengthen us and give us hope as together we face whatever the future may bring.
One of the most dramatic examples of this reality has been the impact that one of the most transforming movements of the 20thcentury has had in providing hope and new beginnings for countless men and women caught in the personal crisis of addiction. It has been said that Alcoholics Anonymous and the many 12-step groups that it has engendered, may go down as one of the most personally transforming movements of the last century. A pivotal key to its genius is, quite simply, sisters and brothers coming together to support in radical honesty an individual’s desire to maintain sobriety. Through the compassion, mercy as well as tough-love of the supportive group, radical honesty is maintained and sobriety can be lived, one day at a time. The group, indeed, becomes companions of wounded healers that open the doors for new beginnings and hope where such life-giving realities seemed impossible.
As a new week opens before us with its inevitable blessings as well as challenges, let us strive to embrace the trust and faith in the one who can, indeed, banish all fear from our lives with his unfailing love.