Many years ago, when I was a lot slimmer than I am now and had a lot more energy, I went out on a pastoral visitation – going from one longhouse to another. On this particular day, I was walking along a path between two longhouses and had left my companions behind, for they were carrying the luggage. I knew, from previous visits, that there was a stream I had to cross on the approach to next longhouse, but I also knew that there was a log bridge with a handrail and so, even though the bridge was quite high above the water, I would have no difficulty crossing it – or so I thought. As I walked, I had fallen into a daydream and so when I came to the bridge I stepped up on it and was halfway across before I realised that the handrail was missing. I froze! I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go back; I couldn’t sit down and my companions were too far behind to see my predicament.
As I stood there, young boy, of about eight or nine years of age, saw me and came skipping out on the log making it, to my horror, bounce up and down and said to me, “Hello, Father, we are all waiting for you” and he held out his hand for me to take so as to lead me across the bridge. I looked at the size of me and I looked at how little he was and thought, “There is no way he can get me over this bridge”, but before that thought could sink in, I found myself taking his hand and suddenly was able to move again and I walked with him across the bridge!
That is faith!
Most of us have been taught about our faith in terms of truths and commandments we are required to accept in order to be Catholics and although these truths and commandments describe for us what the Faith is – this is not “the faith that saves” (Rom 3:28), that “faith” is daring to trust God, as I dared to trust that boy who led me across the log bridge, by putting my hand in his.
When God said to Abraham, “Leave your home and your father’s house and go to the land I will show you” (Gen 12:1), Abraham trusted and he went and “this was the faith that was considered justifying him” (Rom 4:21). It was not a truth he accepted, but took the hand of God outstretched towards him. He trusted the God who spoke to him, inviting him to journey with him. The faith that saves is learning to trust God who speaks to all of us through our lives – but this is not easy.
We only learnt to trust God when we come face to face with a problem we cannot solve – at least not solve it in the way we want to. But when we find ourselves powerless before such a situation, we also find ourselves in a position to enter this “faith that saves”, by handing the problem over to God and allowing him to solve it as he sees fit – and not as we would have him solve it.
When that young boy came out on the log to give me his hand, I had, as I have said, serious doubts that he could help, but to my surprise he did. After that, I had no problem taking the hand of other people who offered to guide me over difficult places – because I knew it worked. Likewise, when I was first faced with a serious situation in my own life that I did not know how to solve, I found it, at first, very difficult to entrust it into God’s hands; I wanted it solved my way. Only when I saw there was nothing else to do, did I, in desperation, give it over to the Lord – and was led through a way I had not imagined possible. After that first time, it became a little easier every time I hand things over to God, although I must admit, there is still a certain anxiety as to how he would solve it – but he always does.
We have to train ourselves to do this and so at the beginning of each day, as I sit on the edge of the bed, I give the day into the Lord’s hands and ask him to lead me through that day – that his will may be done and his Kingdom may come.
This is not something new, but rather something very ancient and., moreover, something we hear about each time we go to Mass, but so often the words slip over our head without our hearts grasping their meaning. For instance, at the consecration, we hear that we are part of a “covenant” a friendship, a partnership with the Lord – which means that we are supposed to do things together with Christ, but so often we still think that we are on our own and have to solve our own problems by ourselves and so we forget to entrust ourselves and our problems into his hands.
This friendship with God that we are invited into each time we pray, is built up through many small things. Should, for instance, I drive into a crowded car park, I don’t ask the Lord to find me a free space, I say, “We can handle this together and if there is no place here, then I know you will find us another way of doing this” It is surprising how, after such an act of faith, things begin to “happen” – and seeing that there are no log-bridges without handrails in Kuching, I find it the best way to carry on building up the trust between God and me, a trust that was taught me by that young boy on a log bridge, so many years ago.
While I was on leave, I found a lovely place for a walk, near where I stay. I drove for about half-an-hour further up the river Thames from Reading, the town where I stay, and then up into the hills. At the top of the hill there is a car-park, which leads on to a footpath which passes through several fields and woods. It was really beautiful – I can look down on the river Thames as it winds its way through villages and fields. It is also very quiet, with only the noise of turtle doves and the wind, and there are benches where I could just sit and look – was I lonely? No, I had a lot of young cows and bullocks to keep me company.
I bought a kindle, while I was on leave in UK – a kindle-fire – which is supposed to do more than just be used to read books with, but I am having trouble learning how to use it. Part of the difficulty is that it works on Wi-Fi and here in the seminary the Wi-Fi is very weak – at least in my room – so I have to sit down outside the office downstairs where the router is in order to get a signal strong enough signal to get online. However, I am ready to give up, not because I mind sitting on the bench outside the office, but because people keep looking at me oddly and asking why I am sitting there!!
I arrived back on Sunday 13th and, two days later, I had to give three lectures commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. I had been working on the talks during my vacation, but the last two days before the talks were very busy as I tried to polish them. However, they seemed to have been appreciated.