The story goes that one day, Saint Teresa of Avila was wheeling a cart across a bridge over the river. At one point along the bridge’s passage, a wheel of the cart got stuck in the planks, and Teresa had to wrestle the cart to get going again. In the struggle, the cart tipped over, and its entire contents spilled out and into the river. As she looked at all her stuff floating down the river, she said, “Well, God, if this is how you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so few of them!”
I am guessing that we have all had at least one time in our lives when we have felt like Saint Teresa in that moment. I confess that I have had a week like that: my mother was without power in her house from Sunday to late Thursday, my aunt has had to go to a nursing facility at least for a month, I have a friend of the family who is at the end of his life, we have had a number of funerals over the last couple of weeks, and the heat has certainly taken its toll on staff relations. So I can just imagine how Saint Teresa felt with all her stuff floating down the river.
Not that I’m Saint Teresa, mind you; I can only aspire to her level of holiness and her friendship with God that made such a conversation possible. But I know how an accumulation of nastiness can drain one’s reserve of faith. And it’s a great danger. Last week’s Gospel showed how the faith of two people led to great healing: Jairus’s daughter was resuscitated from the dead, and the woman with a hemorrhage was cured after twelve long years. But today’s Gospel shows us how a lack of faith prevented Jesus from doing much in the way of healing at all.
And so today, maybe we can take away two role models for having faith when it seems hard to do. Saint Paul struggled with a “thorn in the flesh” – whatever it was for him – and remained faithful. Saint Teresa grappled with the frustrations of daily living and remained a very holy woman. May they be our intercessors when our reserve of faith is waning and the heat of the day is overwhelming. And as the Psalmist models for us: may we be those who keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.