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11TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: WE WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT

This Pauline expression is so real for several reasons in today’s world. Recently, I met with a friend who was coming out of series of trials and temptations in both personal and family life. We reviewed the struggles together, something that could be described as generally bad. The feelings varied -numb, confused, hopeless, just name it. We discussed these, reviewing what the Dark Night of the Soul experience could look like.


The Dark Night of the Soul (La noche oscura del alma) is a mystical experience of St. John of the Cross. St. John describes how the soul departs from itself and from all things to arrive at a sweet and delicious life with God. The dark night of the soul, is a stage of final and complete purification, and is marked by confusion, helplessness, stagnation of the will, and a sense of the withdrawal of God's presence. That stage that leads to surrendering to the hidden purposes of the divine will and union with the object of love, the one Reality, God. Today, this expression is loosely used to describe a crisis of faith or a difficult, painful period in one's life.


UNDERSTANDING THE NATURAL ORDER

The first thing to realize about life is that humanity lives within the natural order. This natural order informs and defines our human existence. For example, I went to the gas station to buy gas early this morning and obviously, gas prices are high. Imagine that I buy gas twice in two weeks at 40 dollars each. I pay other bills and have to take care of my dependents. Again, I went into an African store to buy foodstuff. You won’t believe how much a tuber of yam costs. Being African, I usually translate the dollar prices of things into naira equivalence. It would sound crazy to know how much the naira value of things are. That is the hard reality.


Imagine also people facing hunger and hardship and cannot feed. How about those living in areas besieged by violence and persecution, who sleep with their eyes open. Equally, series of young families are concerned about not just giving their children food but about spiritual, mental, and physical safety and security in the world. Furthermore, if your marriage is experiencing crisis and conflict, emotional stress creates frustration, anxiety, and confusion. Problems exist in categories: trauma, addiction, disease, hunger, joblessness, betrayal, plus moral depravity stare individuals and families on the face. We belong to the natural order and are affected by such.


Sometimes we wonder whether these things have been there from the beginning or whether they are aggravated by circumstances in our time. Long ago, Paul wrote to the Roman community, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). Paul’s expression, “I am convinced,” is strong. It speaks to the need for a deeper understanding of hope within the natural order.


UNDERSTANDING THE SUPERNATURAL ORDER

The first message to be communicated is that the creator of the universe, God is still in control of all things. The prophet Ezekiel captures it, “And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do” (Ezk. 17:23-24). A proper understanding of the divine presence and operation in the scheme of things, enables us to embrace the natural order with the lens of faith.


WHEN THE SUPERNATURAL ENCOUNTERS THE NATURAL ORDER

Life makes sense in a different way to those who believe. Although we are constantly harassed by realities that seem insurmountable, the answer resides in our connection with God. One might ask, Is the world experiencing the dark night of its soul? And what is that intended for?


Faith is called into question the more, yet faith becomes both intriguing and fascinating when things get tough. Faith is sown amidst challenges, and thrives through trials. Christ uses the parables in the gospel to invite us to sow the seed of faith through prayers and commitment. Believers are like the mustard seed who start small but grow into a solid and well-rooted tree. Being in a world such as ours, it is important to realize that our children and grandchildren need a place of shelter, safety, and security. They need emotional, spiritual, and moral pillars to rely on. They need su to become beacons of hope and faith. As St. Paul says, “Yet we are courageous, and would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.”


How is the Lord inviting you to view the situation?

God has given us the gift of faith and intends for us to use it. Pope Francis once said, “our weak effort, seemingly small before the complexity of the problems of the world, when integrated with God’s effort, fears no difficulty.” That is why, despite tragedies, sufferings, injustices, persecutions, abuses, and numerous challenges created by socio-economic and political structures, we hope and trust.


Jesus reminds his disciples today, that God’s kingdom is like a mustard seed that is sown in the ground. Once this mustard seed is sown, it springs up to become the largest plant that sustains birds of the air and provides shelter to those around it. We must remember that Christ already spoke about how the mustard seed faith works, “For I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have [living] faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20).


Faith is a privileged gift that we possess. Again, how is the Lord inviting you to view that situation by faith?


Readings: 1st- EzK. 17:22-24; 2nd- 2 Cor. 5:6-10; Gospel- Mk. 4: 26-34

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