As we get into the full swing of a new year, let's add a belated resolution to our lists. Let's resolve to be more faith-filled during 2016. I will offer an insight in this article about how to do that.
I hear over and over and over, "Father, I just don't feel my faith any longer. I know I'm supposed to have a strong faith, but I just don't feel it." Usually I say, "So what!" I'm not trying to be demeaning. I'm trying to be provocative, to begin a conversation I hope will help the person understand that their faith has far less to do with feelings than it does with actions. Good feelings are great; but, when it comes to faith, they are unnecessary. Only actions, based on the teachings of Jesus, are essential.
I'll try as I usually do to make my point with a story, a modern parable. It's an oldie, but it's also definitely a goodie. I have added a couple of new twists at the end.
It was 1935. The Dust Bowl gripped the heartland of America. Farmers were petrified. It had not rained for more than a year. What had been fertile farm land was now cracked and broken. Crops didn't have a chance. They died almost immediately after breaking the ground.
The people in Concord, Oklahoma were petrified. It seemed as if their way of life was coming to an end. Almost in a panic many of them went to see their priest, Father Jim. A spokesman, Caleb Winter, spoke for the group. "Father, what can we do? It seems like God has abandoned us." Father Jim responded, "Caleb, God never abandons us. We have to have faith. Let's get together this Saturday and we'll have a prayer service. Spread the word, and tell people to bring with them an article of faith."
Saturday came. Standing in a field with dust practically choking them, the people of Concord prayed. Then, Father Jim said, "Hold up your articles of faith." Everywhere, Bibles, rosaries and statues of Jesus were lifted to the heavens. Father Jim shouted at the top of his lungs, "Lord witness our faith. Let the rains come." However, nothing but the continuation of the swirling dust happened.
At the back of the crowd, seven-year-old Samantha Twyler demonstrated her faith. Samantha said, "I have faith, Jesus. I believe. So, I brought a special article of faith." Samantha raised an umbrella. The crowd murmured. The people of Concord understood. Samantha's faith eclipsed theirs. They were impressed. With renewed hope, the people looked at the sky. Nothing, though, happened. Their hearts sank.
Samantha wasn't finished. She sank to her knees. She prayed. "Jesus, we don't like this. We're kind of mad at you. But, Mama tells me you always give us what we need. So, we'll figure out how to learn from this drought how to be better people." Everyone else also sank to their knees.
Six days later, for the first time in almost 13-months, rain fell on Concord, Oklahoma, a changed community. As a result of Samantha's prayer, men and women, boys and girls, old and young had a new appreciation of what faith is. During the six days since the prayer service, the people of Concord had stopped grumbling. They still felt devestated, but they reached out to each other. Despite their own struggles, each person in the town looked for and helped a person worse off.
My sisters and brothers, faith isn't feeling so deeply that what we want will be given to us by God. Faith is doing the right thing, loving and serving others, even when we don't get what we want, even when our feelings are raw.
Let's be faith-filled, not only during 2016, but for the rest of our lives.