Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, October 7, 2012, The Blind Skier and Just Like Job, Fr. Frank Herrman SJ


Jesus and Trusting

Mk. 10:2-16

St. Mary of the Angels, Oct. 2012

 I. Blind skiers. On a ski trip last winter, I saw something that made a deep impression on me. Maybe you have seen the same. While I was cautiously and hesitatingly picking my amateur way down the slope, I saw a blind skier. I was amazed. If I closed my eyes for two seconds while traveling down the incline, I was panicked. Yet here was this skier, totally without sight, letting himself be guided by one or two others, as he sailed from one edge of the slope to the other and down the middle. It was not so much his skiing skill that impressed me as his absolute trust in his guides. It was a beautiful thing to behold.

II. I am reminded of that experience of trusting by our gospel this morning. As I see it, Jesus is calling our attention to two images, both drawn from the family, that tell us something about trust and about God's relation to us:

a. The first image is marriage. Ideally marriage, like real friendship, involves each person entrusting themselves, their lives, and their futures to the other in love. In the old marriage rite, the priest used to read an exhortation before the bride and groom exchanged their vows. In words calculated to impress upon any couple, young or not so young, the essence of what they were undertaking, the marriage ritual spoke powerfully, and even soberingly, of the trust involved in marriage: "This union...will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate that it will profoundly influence your whole future. That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden now from your eyes...It is most fitting that you rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice. And so you begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual lives in the interest of that deeper and wider life which you are to have in common."

In this entrusting of each person to the other, marriage is, as St. Paul says, an image of Christ's love for us all. He entrusts himself to us to be His body, the body of Christ, in this world of need; to continue carrying out His mission. At the same time, He calls us to entrust ourselves to him; to trust that He is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life; that the path of love he invites us to walk along with him, though it calls for self-sacrificing love, leads to the Kingdom of God.

b. The gospel today puts before our eyes a second image about trust, also taken from the family: children. We come across children several times in the gospels: first of all, there is Jesus, born as a poor child in a manger (God comes to us as a child; not as a figure powerfully overwhelming us, but as a vulnerable, trusting child). Then, there is the daughter of Jairus and the little son of a Roman soldier. These parents entrust their children to the Lord for healing and life. From these scenes it is obvious that Jesus had a special care for children. We see it again in the passage this morning; parents are bringing their children for Jesus to bless them. In our minds' eye, we see the children running forward eagerly to entrust themselves to Jesus, who welcomes and embraces them. The disciples are irritated with the parents and scold them for bothering Jesus with their children. But Jesus rebukes his disciples. He understands how beautiful and profound is the simple and spontaneous trust of these children in him. So, he takes the moment not only to bless the children, but to say to those around him, in effect: you, too, should entrust yourselves to God; for God will not disappoint your trust.

The loving entrustment of spouses to one another and of children to Jesus remain experiences of deep beauty and reflections of God's trustworthiness and love for us.

III. Yet, this trusting business can be difficult. Things go wrong at times. Marriages that began with such hope don't work out; children get injured. We lose persons we love. The currency in our wallets says, "In God we trust;" but that trusting is not so easy, when someone is out of a job and can't find another, fearing the last dollar in the wallet will be gone.

Maya Angelou, the great African-American poet, wrote of this struggle to trust. In her poem "Just Like Job," she speaks of trust in the midst of trouble. You will recall that Job in the Old Testament had more troubles heaped upon him than one can count. As if that were not bad enough, his friends kept coming to him and saying his continued trust in God was foolish. Give it up! Here is some of Maya Angelou's poem about Job-- and, clearly, about herself:

My Lord, my Lord,

Long have I cried out to Thee

In the heat of the sun,

the cool of the moon,...

I chanted your name

Just like Job.

Father, Father,

My life give I gladly to Thee

Deep rivers ahead

High mountains above

My soul wants only Your love

But fears gather round like wolves in the dark

Have you forgotten my name?

Oh, Lord, come to your child.

Oh, Lord, forget me not.

You said to lean on Your arm,

and I'm leaning

You said to trust in Your love

and I'm trusting

You said call on Your name

and I'm calling

I'm stepping out on Your word...

On Your word

On Your word.

On the wonderful word of the Son of God.

I'm stepping out on Your word.

When the poet says "stepping out on your word," I think of how it is to step out on an ice-coated pond or stream in winter, wondering whether the ice will really hold you up, as you take cautious, fearful steps forward. Will this ice support me? Am I a fool to be trusting it? Or, will it crack and send me down into the cold, watery depths? (Maybe the blind skier feels something like that, too, wondering whether he can trust his guide.) In the poem, we hear the bold faith of Maya Angelou:

You said to trust in Your love

And I'm trusting...

I'm stepping out on Your word.

Joy, joy

Your word.

Joy, joy

The wonderful word of the Son of God.

IV. So, too, did Jesus step out on the word of God. When he took time to embrace the children, as we see him in today's gospel, he himself was, in fact, on the road to Jerusalem where he knew he would be called to trust the Father with his whole life, as he laid it down on the cross. There, he would even feel abandoned by the One who called him to lay it down. But His last words were "Into your hands, O Lord, I entrust my spirit." He stepped out on the Father's word.

And He was right. By the power of the Father, Christ rose from the dead.

Let us entrust ourselves and all whom we love, and even all of creation, to God. If we step out on the Lord's word, it will support us in every circumstance of life and lead us to the Kingdom of Christ's promise.

F.R. Herrmann, S.J.

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