One night a house caught on fire, and everyone in the family hurried outside—except for the family’s five-year-old son. In his panic, he ran upstairs to the attic, and from there opened a window and climbed out onto the roof. His father saw him while standing down on the ground below, and called out, “Billy! Jump! I’ll catch you.” The flames were closing in, and the father knew his son would have to jump very soon in order to save his life. However, all the boy could see was fire, smoke, and the blackness of the night. His father kept yelling, “Jump! I’ll catch you!” Billy protested, “Daddy, I can’t see you!” The father shouted back, “But I can see you, and that’s what matters!” (Pulpit Resource, Vol. 18 #2, p. 23).
Occasionally in life circumstances require us to make a supreme act of trust, or to take a leap of faith. This is especially true in our relationship with God—and it’s this aspect of life which can be most difficult. Except for a few specially-chosen persons, we human beings don’t see heavenly visions or hear God speak with our own ears; we believe in Him and sometimes seem to feel His presence, but we can’t technically prove His existence. And yet, we’re called to trust in Him, to do His will, and to surrender our lives into His hands. We’re like Billy who was clinging to the roof of a burning house: we’re supposed to do something that’s difficult and frightening—and only by doing it can we be saved. We might very likely protest, “Lord, I can’t see You!” In such a case, His answer would be, “But I can see you, and that’s all that matters.”
Sometimes receiving the answers we’ve been seeking only raises more questions. That seems to have been happening in the Gospel (John 14:1-12) for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. Jesus was speaking to the apostles at the Last Supper, before going out to the Garden of Gethsemani, where His fearful passion would begin. He knew the time was short, and He had so much He wanted to tell His apostles in order to teach them, strengthen them, and reassure them. Each time He said something, however, they in turn raised a question or request. Thomas asked, “Master, we do not know where You are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus explained, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” This prompted Philip to say, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus responded with a certain amount of exasperation, “Philip, after I have been with you all this time, you still do not know Me? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” The apostles had difficulty understanding that Jesus and the Father lived in each other, and that this truth had been demonstrated again and again by the miracles Jesus performed. Their Master was asking them to believe something beyond the range of normal human experience—and, not surprisingly, this was difficult for them to do; His answers to their questions raised new questions or concerns in their minds. This, however, is part of what it means to have faith; we’re not given easy answers, but challenging questions, and we’re not provided with a complete itinerary, but only with a direction to travel. In the Second Reading (1 Peter 2:4-9), St. Peter tells us that Jesus is either a cornerstone or a stumbling block. Those who reject Him will stumble and fall; those who accept Him will be part of a chosen race and of a holy temple of God.
It is our destiny to come to Christ’s Kingdom by living as His followers on earth, but that doesn’t make it easy to do so. Sometimes we have doubts, questions, and fears; our first reaction to any possible difficulty or problem is usually to worry, rather than trust. Therefore, we often need to remind ourselves that God has always cared for us in the past, and is thus certain to continue doing so in the future. St. Paul of the Cross advises us, “Entrust yourself entirely to God. He is a Father and most loving Father at that, Who would rather let Heaven and earth collapse than abandon anyone who trusted in Him.”
Imagine five-year-old Billy’s thoughts while being urged by his dad to jump from the roof. What if he had a bad or unsatisfying relationship with his dad? What if his father had usually ignored him, rejected him, been too busy for him, or made him feel unloved? If that had been the case, Billy would have had every reason to fear jumping into his arms; he’d have no proof that his father would actually try to catch him. But what if his father had always been good and loving and available to him—letting Billy climb up onto his lap, playing catch with him, reading him bedtime stories, hugging and kissing him, and just spending time with him? Then Billy would have had many instances of love to remember, serving as proof of his father’s care—and this would make his leap of faith much easier.
We have a Father Who’s far more loving than Billy’s father, or any father, ever could be. All of us can think of times when it seemed our problems were insurmountable, or when we didn’t know how things could possibly work out all right, or we couldn’t imagine we’d get through a difficult situation—and yet we did. God was there, caring for us; He was usually behind the scenes, but He was there—and He always will be, especially when we need Him most. Therefore, we should continue to trust, even if we’re facing a personal crisis regarding our health, or financial difficulties, or serious problems at work, or some sort of controversy or division within our family, or any sort of challenge in living out our faith. Many times we can’t see the way out—but we don’t need to. God watches over us with a Father’s love—and if we have the courage to trust in Him, all will be well. [5th Sunday of Easter- A]