Invariably in our life there will come a time when our faith is tested. The question for each of us is, how will we handle this when the time comes? That’s really the theme from the Gospel from Saint Luke that we heard this past Sunday. Jesus uses the vivid image of the Temple being destroyed to drive home his point:
“While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down”
So, in our life, when the securities that we count on seem to be taken away from us, one at a time, and we don’t have answers to the questions that fly around in our heads, it’s good to turn to sources that can give us encouragement.
One of those sources can be found in the writings of a man whose cause is now used for Canonization: Father Walter J. Ciszek. Fr. Ciszek was a Jesuit priest from upstate Pennsylvania. In the years before the Second World War and after, he was held prisoner by the Soviets who accused him of being a Vatican spy. He had to endure grueling interrogations and eventual imprisonment in a work camp in Siberia. His book, “He Leadeth Me” recounts his ordeal but also gives great insight into the profound spiritual insights he gained from learning to really rely on his faith in times of testing. Here’s a passage from that book that can offer some inspiration and encouragement:
Of course we believe that we depend on God, that he will sustain us in every moment of our life. But we are afraid to put it to the test. There remains deep down in us a little nagging doubt, a little knot of fear which we refuse to face or admit even to ourselves, that says, “Suppose it isn’t so.” We are afraid to abandon ourselves totally into God’s hands for fear he will not catch us as we fall. It is the ultimate criterion, the final test of all faith and all belief, and it is present in each of us, lurking unvoiced in a closet of our mind we are afraid to open. It is really not a question of trust in God at all, for we want very much to trust him; it is really a question of our ultimate belief in his existence and his providence, and it demands the purest act of faith…I had trusted him, I had cooperated with his grace—but only up to a point. Only when I had reached a point of total bankruptcy of my own powers had I at last surrendered.
Fr Ciszek had come to the realization that he had no choice but to abandon himself to God’s hands and stop relying on only his own resources. That realization was a turning point in his life and the moment of profound conversion. He was still in the midst of his suffering, but now he would do things differently and he was confident that God, in his way and time, would see him through to whatever it is that faced him.
We pray for the same grace to come to the same realization, so that we too can surrender to the providence of our Heavenly Father.