Some time ago a friend gave me this little bird along with the scripture verse “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feed them. Are you not you more important than they?” (Matthew 6:26) The bird sits next to my desk to remind me that God cares for me. No matter what happens, good will be the outcome, maybe in some unforeseeable way. Even now in the midst of a global epidemic, people are looking to the positive effects it may have, such as reordering our priorities.
Faith has two aspects: believing in doctrines like the existence of God and trusting in that God. I’m recalling times when I faced a daunting future and came out safe and happy. For one, three weeks after turning eighteen I entered the convent, not really knowing what I was getting into. (True confession: As my family drove with me to the convent, I cried all the way.) Since then my life has unfolded in a fascinating way with adventures and people I never imagined. Another frightening experience was flying to Abu Dhabi by myself. Both coming and going on full flights, there were empty seats next to me, a little reassurance that God was with me. Subsequently I also flew to Bahrain and Qatar and had wonderful experiences.
So, what about now? This week I watched the movie “Elmer Gantry,” which covered, with adaptations, the first hundred pages of Sinclair Lewis’s book by the same title. Elmer meets “Sister Sharon,” who conducts popular revivals and can quote numerous Scripture passages. (Spoiler alert!) At the end of the movie during her preaching to a packed house a tossed cigarette ignites a fire. Soon the whole building is aflame. While the crowd stampedes out, Sister Sharon shouts for the people to stay there and trust in God. They ignore her. Her faith is such that she stays…and at the end nothing is left of her but her Bible. Now that is foolish faith. God depends on us to use our reason to get out of predicaments.
St. Ignatius of Loyola (and sometimes St. Augustine) is credited with saying, “Pray as though everything depended on God, but work as though everything depended on you.” And then there’s the common adage: “God helps those who help themselves.” So we pray with all our might that our loved ones and friends are spared the coronavirus. We storm heaven that this scourge leaves Earth. But at the same time, we prudently take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the virus: wearing a mask, washing hands. You know the drill. No one is invincible.
Hopefully, most people will follow the wise directions of scientists and physicians so that we don’t end up like Sister Sharon!
We have great examples of people who had massive trust in God from Noah and Abraham to Mary and Joseph. Today millions are called upon to exercise such faith. You may be one of them.
• When have you relied on divine providence to see you through a tough time?
Here is a song that was new to me for your reflection: