Gold That’s Tested in Fire: When Faith is Tested to the Breaking PointMay 17th, 2013
“My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal. Be sincere of heart, be steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes.” Sirach 1:1,2
The Boston Marathon blast that killed three and maimed scores whose lives were changed forever. The young man at LaSalle H.S. who shot himself. The three young women who were abducted and held prisoner for ten years in Cleveland. Sandy Hook, and all those bright-eyed, beautiful kids whose lives were brutally taken. A baby discarded in a dumpster; countless others aborted.
Atrocities in Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq. 900+ killed in the Bangladesh factory collapse. Earthquakes, mudslides, tsunamis, famine. Auto accidents, cancer, alzheimer’s, heart disease, AIDS.
Do not be alarmed when disaster comes? Are you kidding?
“Cling to him and do not leave him…” (Sirach 1:3)
For some, tragedies trigger this mental calculus: There’s no way a loving God could allow this to happen, so either God isn’t loving, or God doesn’t exist. It’s a normal, predictable, and entirely understandable reaction.
Yet if that’s where the reasoning ends, sadly faith can end there too, with hope and healing stopped in their tracks.
“Whatever happens to you, accept it, and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient, since gold is tested in the fire, and the chosen in the furnace of humiliation.” (Sirach 1:4-5)
A few moments ago I got off the phone with a close friend who works at LaSalle High School. I heard the story first-hand of what happened in that classroom. It was a class like any other when the students around him saw the gun and cried out, there was a loud click, the gun fired, and he slumped to his desk. Ten seconds, if that.
Here’s the difference faith makes: the 911 call brought the police in four minutes, but faith was faster, triggered immediately as school leaders, faculty and students responded, followed by an outpouring of compassion, love, concern, courage, prayer and spirit. Student safety and the well-being of the family came first, then the healing began, with all the disbelief, dismay, anger, grief and tears that come when grief can be openly shared among many. All this unfolded in the crucible of faith that is LaSalle High School, a crucible durable enough to hold it and more, because it’s founded on the living Christ.
“Trust him and he will uphold you, follow a straight path and hope in him.” (Sirach 1:6)
Suffering and death, calamities and disasters: they happen with sometimes shocking regularity. Yet we know two things for certain: that God is love, and that faith in God offers no guarantees. We follow Jesus Christ and wear – and worship in places that prominently display – crucifixes. Our holiest days celebrate God with us and among us (Christmas and Holy Thursday), God suffering alongside us and for us (Good Friday), God’s love victorious (Easter), and God’s Spirit within us and among us (Pentecost). Our faith embraces all of life, all of it, not just the pleasant parts but the tough, troubling and trying parts as well.
And we believe that in fact it all is transformed in Christ, as we say at Mass: with Christ and through Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit…
“…Everything that has hurt, everything that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful, maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged, is in him transformed, and in him recognized as whole,because God is always looking at Christ in us, at his Son in his daughters and in his sons. “ (15th Hymn of St. Simeon)
That’s the mystery we live, and in which we are transformed: the divine paradox that God is love, and there is suffering and death – and through all of it God’s glory and the victory of the cross shine forth and are transparently revealed.
It’s when times are darkest that faith prevails and has the last word. And that word is ALLELUIA!
Sean Reynolds is the archdiocesan director of the Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry.