Friday, June 12, 2009

Where is faith? -death is at work in us, but Life in you

(From today's Mass Reading)
2 Corinthians 4:8-12
We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

It was probably the worst moment of my life, next to the day he died. Dad was sick, had been sick for years, but now he was horribly and acutely ill. And the doctors had spent weeks saying it was nothing. To buck up, essentially.

And then they found a fracture in his back. And a staph infection that had gone undetected until it was almost too late to reverse. And later, after his death, we would find out that there were other fatal things going on in his body. The end was coming soon, but the doctors just kept saying it was nothing new, nothing fatal. Just get up and get some physical therapy.

And it was on one of those days when Dad hit rock bottom. He almost despaired. I was there to witness it, and it rocked my world as well.

This man who had been my spiritual and earthly father for all of my life turned his pain-filled face to me, his daughter, and said, “Where is faith? Oh, where is faith?”

I hadn’t read the works of any saints (except those captured in Holy Scripture), and so I didn’t have an answer for how suffering can be offered up. I didn’t know that suffering can be a dance between the Creator and the created. It didn't mean God had abandoned him. In fact, God was there in this suffering in ways we could not know. In ways far more powerful than joy. Or discovery. Or even Bible study. But, I didn’t know how to help my dad see that it wasn’t his faith that was faltering; it was a new lesson. Perhaps a lesson he must learn before he left this world.

“I am a fake.”

When he said that, I nearly collapsed. No, that wasn’t possible. I knew this man well. I had seen his faith in practice. A Protestant minister for thirty years, a dedicated follower, a sincere believer, a contemplative (in as much as Protestants who have never studied the lives of the contemplative Saints can follow such spirituality). Indeed, what I knew of faith, I had learned from this man.

“No, Dad. You are not a fake.” He looked at me and wept.

Weeks later, he died almost instantly of a pulmonary embolism. Thankfully, faith had been given to him again, and he had abandoned himself to God’s Divine Plan. But the greatest impact of his suffering was still to come.

As it says in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, “So death is at work in us, but life in you” – that is what was happening. Dad was dying, and now had passed away, and I was left to sort through the memories and figure out what I had witnessed. What did it mean?

And within months, I stumbled upon St. John of the Cross and read
Dark Night of the Soul.

It was the beginning of my conversion to the Catholic Church. So, death was at work in my father, but Life was at work in me.

My father died on December 28, 2003. On August 14, 2005, I was received into the Catholic Church. Since my conversion, I have written pieces of my conversion story for over 27 diocesan papers and a few Catholic magazines.

And so, I can say . . . death is at work in me, but Life in you . . . as I continue this journey of faith, and share the story of conversion with others, offering up every moment – the most wonderful moments to the most painful.

All is grace.


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