Trust in God: A Homily by Deacon Alan Doty

The noted Jesuit author and philosopher John Kavanaugh once spent several months with St. Mother Teresa in Calcutta.  When he first met Mother Teresa, he asked her to pray for him. “What do you want me to pray for?” she replied. He then uttered the request he had with him for most of his faith life- “Clarity. Pray that I have clarity.”

“No,” Mother Teresa answered, “I will not do that. Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh said that she always seemed to have clarity, the very kind of clarity he was looking for, Mother Teresa laughed and said: “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So, I will pray that you trust God.”

Today’s beautiful readings have a common theme of trusting in God, expressed by the psalm response: “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you”. The Psalm asks us to trust because “of the kindness of the LORD, the earth is full”. 

Can we truly pray these words in the midst of the violence, sin and suffering, with the degradation of human life and souring of our society that accompanies them? No doubt there are people in the world for which the kindness of the Lord is a cruel joke, a Pollyanna response to what we see around us. How can we have faith in a loving God who allows such atrocities to happen again and again. 

Certainly, whoever wrote the psalm was familiar with terrible evils, yet still they wrote of trust. For over 2000 years the Church, scandalized and reeling from constant violence, continues to proclaim the words of the Psalms: ‘the earth is full of your steadfast love’ (Psalm 119:64). ‘Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you’ (Psalm 33:22).

We cannot use our faith to hide behind. We must name evil when we see it and oppose evil at all times. Our American society, and the world in general, is consumed with defining ‘us’ vs ‘them’, demonizing those who differ from us and whom we see as threatening, to obliterate or erase those we define as our enemies. No one doubts that there is a certain logic in this, but it is directly contrary to the revelation given us in Jesus, to the very basis of Christianity, and it ignores a teaching that is central to Jesus’ message: ‘Love your enemies’. Bullying, suppression, and violence committed in the name of asserting your rights or the rights of whatever community with which you identify is nonetheless unjust violence and oppression. God who hears the cry of the poor and oppressed calls upon us to have the will and the courage to oppose such injustice.

The apostles in today’s Gospel are being asked to trust, to have faith. This passage takes place at the Last Supper, where Jesus prepares his disciples for what is coming soon coming. The apostles and all the disciples will soon be challenged by the most unjust violence ever committed. An innocent man will be crucified because of political and religious hypocrisy. As in the violent situations confronting us, evil will threaten to overwhelm the apostles. The Roman authorities and the religious leaders saw Jesus as the threat, the other, someone they neither understood nor accepted. They used their power to eliminate him. 

Jesus is dismayed the disciples are still asking for clarity rather than trust in God. Thomas wants to be clear: how can we know the way if we don’t even know where we are going? Philip as well asks for clarity – he asks just to see the face of God – then he will know the truth. Jesus’ response is to push the disciples towards trust – “trust in God, trust in me… I am the way, the truth and the life.”

What then are the apostles, and we ourselves, asked to do in the face of unjust violence and suffering? We look to Calvary. 

The shock of Calvary is that Jesus accepted the violence and responded with forgiveness and love. He cut through logic of violence and counter-violence, of violent oppression and violent resistance. It is at Calvary that the apostles learned the full value of Jesus’ words: Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” (John 14:1). This is not Pollyanna – far from it. This is to acknowledge the unvarnished fact that Jesus is the truth. “I am the way, the truth and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father, except through me.”

Faith in the truth of Jesus gives us the strength to trust in him and not let evil times overwhelm us, to know that it is his love alone that has the power to change people’s hearts. The Roman centurion was deeply moved when he saw the way Jesus died: ‘Indeed, this was a Son of God’. Paul’s conversion began when he was present as Stephen (one of the proto – deacons ordained in today’s first reading) was martyred, with Jesus’ words of forgiveness and trust on his lips (Acts 7:59-60).

When looking at Calvary, look honestly into your own hearts.  Are we any different from the people responsible for perpetrating the atrocities that sicken us?  Do we fall into the trap of ‘us’ vs ‘them’, or do we truly recognize that every single person is sacred, no matter how weak or foreign, their status or even their own hateful words?  The history of apparently civilized people acting in barbaric ways must surely give us pause. Resolve to cease allowing your perceptions of your own needs to so dominate your thoughts and desires. 

This Easter season, in the face of sin and its consequences, the Church encourages us to trust as we cry out for mercy.  ‘Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you’. Our lives are surrounded by mercy. Angels minister to us, the martyrs and saints of our Church intercede for us to live a life full of the radiant beauty of God’s love. God’s love will be seen to fill the whole earth: ‘of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full… Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you’.

One comment

  1. Dear Alan, Your Homily is so full of wisdom and truth. It was just what I needed today…Thank you for sharing your gifts with us.


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