“Do not let your hearts be troubled, you have faith in God” Jesus urged. Beautiful words often proclaimed at funerals when we are all a bit troubled. Jesus spoke them at the Last Supper to the twelve who were so close to him after announcing that one of them would betray him and one of them would deny knowing him three times. This was hard news that would make any heart be troubled. Then he added that he was leaving them to go to a place where they could not yet go. Surely they were shaken and bewildered by his words and at his impending departure.
They missed his complete message: “ you have faith in God, have faith also in me.” He is the answer to our unanswered questions and burdensome fears but only if we have faith in Him not only in our head but in our heart. Thomas asked what we often ask in our troubled times “how can we know the way.” Jesus told them and tells us that He is the antidote to our troubled souls, ”I am the way, and the truth and the life.” It is through me that you can come to the Father. It is through me that your hearts can lose the fear and hurt in the days ahead. It is through me that ultimately you can enter the Father’s house. It is through me that you will have meaning in this world and eternal joy in the world to come. In a way he was telling them to keep focused on the bigger picture, not the travails of today but the promise of tomorrow. He is the way for every one of us – if we believe and are faithful to that belief.
There are times when my heart is troubled and my faith is tested. I am preaching to myself as well as you in these moments. Christ offers us rest in the midst of them. A few years ago I was out for a walk near a high school on a beautiful spring day like today. Oblivious to the world around me suddenly a car pulled up filled with teen agers, the window was rolled down and I was doused with soda pop. My first response was one of anger, then grateful it was not something more lethal, and finally I laughed. One thing that my heart is troubled about is the many youth who do not know that Jesus is the way for them. Christ reassures us that His love made real on the cross can settle our heartache, offer direction and provide perspective.
To do so requires us to accept the reality of our times, to have what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once called an adult faith. He wrote, “An adult faith does not follow the waves of fashion and the latest novelties, an adult and mature faith is profoundly rooted in friendship with Christ . . . He has made us his friends.”
An adult faith is one that sees the facts, reflects on their impact, prays for strength and humbly accepts God’s will, for God’s will is always the good. Key is acknowledging the reality of our time and our lives especially in the midst of change.
I have on occasion spoken about when the Cathedral in Madison, Wisconsin was destroyed by fire while I was living there as rector. It was a troubled time in my life, losing what was my home both physically and spiritually. After the fire among the debris was discovered a beautiful pewter statue of the Blessed Mother. Undamaged It was stored in the attached garage. Later I tried to use the garage door opener but it didn’t work. The battery must be dead I thought, so I replaced it. It still did not work. Lamenting my frustration to the security guard, he reminded me to my embarrassment that there was no electricity. How dumb. I was viewing life as it once was, not as it was that day. It is in those times when we blind ourselves to reality that we bring troubled hearts on ourselves.
Those troubles however can sometimes help us find the way again. There is an old saying that all sunshine makes the desert. On the prairie all sunshine makes drought. A balance of sun and rain is essential for life to flourish, including the spiritual life. So often when we are challenged we focus on the harsh facts that lead us to troubled hearts rather than on the opportunity for spiritual growth that those rainy days may open to us. God invites us in the hard times to rediscover Him.
Faith and trust in Christ is not easy and does not remove those aspects of life that cause us to be troubled. But when we open ourselves to God’s will and God’s way we can navigate through them with hope. An adult faith is one that sees the facts, accepts their reality, prays for strength and humbly desires that God’s will be done.
In Abilene, Kansas is the presidential library of Dwight David Eisenhower, twice elected President of the United States. He as the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II ordered the invasion of Europe which resulted in the loss of thousands of lives yet ultimately restored freedom to millions. The presidential library chronicles his incredible influence on the history of the world. Yet in its midst is a simple cemetery. On the left is the stark grave of President Eisenhower known to most familiarly as simply Ike. On the right is the stark grave of his wife Mamie. In between them is the tiny grave of their son, nicknamed Icky, who died at the age of three from scarlet fever. It is a moving scene because the parents seem to console and protect their son who is in their midst. As parents they likely would have forsaken all the fame and accomplishment to have held their little boy in their arms and to have watched him grow. It is said that every year on Icky’s birthday Ike sent Mamie flowers in remembrance of their son and to recognize their still troubled hearts. They remembered and yet moved on. And so can we.
Like the Apostles at the Last Supper our hearts are often troubled about how we can cope with our crosses and challenges, our doubts and worries. Jesus speaks to us as he did to the Apostles that holy night. “Do not let your hearts be troubled; have faith in God and have faith in me; for I am the way; follow me.”