You know, I am not sure how some people get through the hard times of their lives if they don’t have faith. We can all probably think of a time in our lives when we were sorely tested, when our lives were turned upside-down, and, looking back, we can’t figure out how we lived through it except for the comfort of our faith. I thought about that a lot this week. A friend and colleague of mine died; she had been the supervisor of my CPE program, the summer of hospital chaplaincy that I did while in seminary. And so that brought back many memories of all that summer brought me. Needless to say, I ministered to a great many people, some of whom had faith, and some who didn’t. It was always inspirational to see how people with faith lived through their hard times, and very sad to see how many who didn’t have faith just broken when their lives stopped going well.
That’s the experience that today’s Liturgy of the Word puts before us, I think. Let’s look at the context. In last week’s Gospel, Jesus has cured two people miraculously. He actually raised Jairus’s twelve-year-old daughter from the dead, and he cured the hemorrhagic woman, who had been suffering for twelve years. So both of them had occurrences of the number twelve, reminiscent of the twelve tribes of Abraham, and later the Twelve Apostles, both of which signify the outreach of God’s presence into the whole world. So those two miraculous healings last week reminded us that Jesus was healing the whole world.
And this week, we see the exception. This week, Jesus is in his hometown, where he is unable to do much in the way of miracles except for a few minor healings. Why? Because the people lacked faith. And this is in stark contrast to last week’s healings where Jairus handed his daughter over to Jesus in faith, and the hemorrhagic woman had faith that just grasping on to the garments of Jesus would give her healing. Faith can be very healing, and a lack of it can be stifling, leading eventually to the destruction of life.
We see that clearly in the first two readings. First Ezekiel is told that the people he would be ministering to would not change, because they were obstinate. But at least they’d know a prophet had been among them. Contrast that with Saint Paul’s unyielding faith in the second reading to the Corinthian Church. Even though he begged the Lord three times to relieve him of whatever it was that was his thorn in the flesh, he would not stop believing in God’s goodness. His faith led him to be content with whatever weakness or hardship befell him, and he came to know that in his weakness, God could do more and thus make him stronger than he could be on his own.
We people of faith will be tested sometimes; that’s when the rubber hits the road for our faith. Knowing of God’s providence, we can be sure that he will lead us to whatever is best. And our faith can help us to make sense of the struggles and know God’s presence in the dark places of our lives. People of faith are tested, but never abandoned. Never abandoned.