Beyond skepticism to trust

By: By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 28

Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24; Psalm 30:2,4,5-6,11,12,13; 2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15; Mark 5:21-43

The Irish love to tell the story of Paddy McGarrity who spent his life bemoaning all the circumstances of life. Nothing would satisfy him. One particularly lovely sunny day the sun burst out through the fog and rain of the country and spread over the Irish hills in a blaze of glory. Surely even Paddy would see the beauty of life in this!

“Paddy,” the parish priest called to him over the fence, “isn’t it a beautiful day?”

“Ah, Father,” Paddy moaned, “but will it last?”

Isn’t that often the way with us? We remain skeptical of life in the midst of beauty as well as challenge. We aren’t sure. We try to use our limited rational abilities to give ourselves the best answer we can conjure up.

Both Mark in the Gospel and the author of the Book of Wisdom present very different perspectives on two of the most haunting issues in our life: death and faith.

Mark, as he is wont to do in his Gospel, gives us two overlapping stories that help us confront both topics. The synagogue official breaks the boundaries of protocol and kneels before Jesus to plead that Jesus restore his daughter’s life. Likewise, the woman who had a hemorrhage took a risk to reach out to Jesus and touch his garment. Both had faith that Jesus could heal. In each case, a radical letting-go of the rational and logical, and their trust in One they had heard who could heal, changed everything for them.

Faith is stepping into the unknown and allowing ourselves to trust in the More, the unseen. Faith (which has the necessary ingredient of trust) is the very ground upon which the life of a Christian is built. Just as we have faith in those we know we can count on in life, so it is with us as followers of Jesus. A firm relationship of faith in Jesus is built on our trust in his words and actions.

There is risk in this relationship, as St. Paul often reminds us. Yet faith assures us that “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19a) brings us to fullness of life.

We learn from the words of Wisdom that we can trust this commitment of faith in the goodness of God. We hear that “God did not make death, nor does God rejoice in the destruction of the living. For God fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome. . . . For God formed us to be imperishable; the image of God’s own nature he made us.” (Wisdom 1:13-14a; 23)

God has every intention of bringing about the good for us, if only we can trust that God does want our best. We know that faith requires us to be open to God’s knowledge of the best for us. That is the risk of faith. Our limited perspective allows only our limited perspective to give us answers. Our faith, on the other hand, breaks the boundaries of our limited perspective to give way to a much larger vision that forms us into the person God has made us to be.

As Paddy in the opening story suggests, we can be skeptical of the possibilities of a wider vision. It is faith that moves us beyond such skepticism to a trust that brings healing and holiness.

A member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB, has been pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights since 1983.

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