Parish Office
16150 St. Anthony Rd.
Emmitsburg, MD. 21727
Phone: 301-447-2367

 
 

Raise Your Umbrella
Or
Be Assured of What You Hope for

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Maryís University

(10/3) Once upon a time in a town Ė"Gateway to the Mountains" - just south of the Mason Dixon Line the crops had wilted. People shock their heads and held a dry finger up in the air. There was no sign of relief. The ministers all got together and invited the good folk to a special service in which they would all pray for rain. They asked everyone to bring with them a special object of faithóa faith symbol that meant something to themóa faith symbol that they could use for inspiration. The crowd turned out for the service. In clutched hands they held their faith symbols: prayer books and Bibles, crosses and rosaries. At the end of the hour of prayeróthe sky darkened and a soft rain began to fall. In the middle of the thankful crowd one faith symbol stood out and overshadowed all the others. A small nine year old girl had raised her umbrella. Even without her realizing itóthis raised umbrella, a faith-symbol, showed the confident faith she had.

Do you and I grow in confidence in our faith?

On their long southbound journey to Jerusalem, the City of his Destiny, Jesus had been instructing his disciples (and us) about the kingdom of God, about himself, and what it means to be his discipleóto follow him. As the disciples gathered around the young rabbi toward the end of their journey, they asked him ó "increase their faith."

They were not asking for a primitive version of the Apostlesí Creed, or a list of doctrines. They were asking him for the gift of a deeper trust in God and in Jesus, as their teacher. They hoped for what they needed -- the kind of faith that would last them for the long haul---a faith like that of Abraham, their father and our father in faith. They believed Ėas do we believeóthat, centuries earlier, Abraham had set out on his journey to the promised land and with trust and fidelity believed that God would be faithful to him and show him the way to live in accord with Godís own promise.

Jesus does not respond directly to his disciplesí request: "Increase our faith". Rather, he puts them on the spot. The important point is not "how much faith" you have. . The important point is the "kind of faith" you have. He gives them an example of the power of faith--- even a little bit can produce staggering results. But Jesus does not tell them just what faith is. Instead he gives them and us a story which encourages us to be faithful tour responsibilities.

In reading the New Testament we learn that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for" (Heb. 11:1). Our assurance of what we hope for is an assurance of what has already taken placeóthe resurrection of Jesus. His resurrection is the basis of our Christian commitment. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for" is the basis for our being faithful to our responsibilities." Our faith is much more than our saying "yes" to a set of revealed truths. It is our personal and purposeful response to the presence of God in our own experience. If our faith is no bigger than a grain of mustardóbut if it is genuinely real, its power will be enormous.

You and I, as a people of faith, submit our minds and our hearts to a God who in his love for us has made himself known to us in his revealed word. We accept as true certain statements that come to us from the word in Scripture, from the Word that is Jesus Christ, from the Word that the Church teaches in the name of Christ. That is genuine faith, friends, but it is not the whole of faith.

Faith is not simply a head trip. It is not simply a series of teachings that you and I, as disciples of Jesus, believe. Faith is more than that. Faith is our surrendering in grace to the whole person of Jesus Christ, our Brother and our Lord.

The "faith that saves", the faith that moves mountains and mulberry treesóto use the exaggerated language of Jesus, is not merely our saying "yes" to the statements we profess in our Creed at Mass, as precious as these statements are to us. Our act of faith must be "love-laden", loaded with love-- our love directed not to a set of statements, but to a person, Jesus Christ. It must be a "yes" which engages you and me, the whole person, not only our understanding, but our heart and willóan act of total self-giving.

This is a "tall order". Sometimes we hedge on it-- We claim: "I canít pray because my faith is weak." "I canít be charitable because Iím a weak Christian." "I canít really get myself going and work for social justice, because Iím just a beginner." "I canít stop drinking because I havenít got sufficient grace." "I canít love the Lord the way Iíd like to because Iím not good enough."

And Jesus might well speak to us: "My friend, my sister, my brother-- "Donít kid yourself. Simply get moving with the faith you already have. Face the truth about yourself---that I love you and my Father loves you. I died and rose for you. I have redeemed you. Be true to yourself and live out what it means to accept my love for you. As you grow in doing thisónot matter how young or old you may be-- may you become more deeply aware that you too are raising your umbrella.