We believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
-The Nicene Creed
Last week after daily Mass my friend, a young man who is discerning a call to the priesthood, needed to talk. "I've been whining alot lately," he confessed, "and I know it. I keep wondering if I can do it, if I can live that life for sixty or seventy years." He went on, listing his many worries: austerity, celibacy, family... After he expressed his concerns, and after I gave him the motherly hug he needed at that moment, he said to me, "Gina, will you pray with me?"
I immediately started into my little request for him: for a clear, obvious sign that would tell my friend exactly what he needed to hear so he could move forward. More importantly, I now realize, I listened to my friend as he prayed aloud to God: "Dad," he said, "I need your help. I'm confused. I don't know what to do. You always help me, Father. I know you hear me, Dad, sometimes I can't hear you, and I know it's because I'm not listening. And I'm scared, Dad. I'm scared, but I trust you, Father. And I love you."
His prayer went on like this for quite a while, the conversation between a small child crying and his Daddy, comforting him. I held his hand throughout his prayer, and I prayed silently with him, feeling utterly humbled.
My friend helped me to really understand something that I've always kind of known, but wasn't applying to my daily faith: believing that a God exists who does wondrous, miraculous things by merely speaking them, and believing IN this same God are two entirely different things. How often do we--do I--confuse them?
While I was very sincere in my prayer, thinking that I was praying with my whole heart for my friend, I was doing nothing more than telling God that I wanted something, as if he were some genie in a bottle that I summon periodically to perform a little trick for me. In other words, I was merely demonstrating that I believe a God that does signs and wonders exists.
Didn't many of Jesus' followers do this same thing? Even after he fed thousands on a hillside with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, many still had to ask him: "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?" (Jn 6:30) When he not only withheld the sign, but gave them an answer that they didn't like, didn't many of them turn away from Him? I wonder how many times in my life I've done this very same thing. I wonder if I'm any different from these followers, coming to Jesus to give me a flashy parlor trick so that I can continue to believe.
My friend didn't need a parlor trick. What he needed was compassion, understanding and love. He needed his hand held. He needed the relationship that is BELIEVING IN GOD. He needed to get beyond the signs, and really enter into that relationship with the Living Lord.
In those moments that I shared with my friend, I realized that I need it, too.