Reflection for Tuesday, August 3, 2021: 18th Week of Ordinary Time.

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Purcell, Tom
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|Disclosure:  I wrote the reflection for August 3, 2020.  Although the first reading and psalm response were different than those for today, the Gospel is the same.  I have updated my prior writing to consider what has changed in the last year.|• • • • • • • • •|Today's gospel presents two situations involving faith – Peter's momentary loss of faith, and the sick people in the crowd who believed the mere touching of the cloak of Jesus would cure them.  The gospel excerpt challenges me to reflect on the meaning of faith.|I did a Google search of "faith means" and in less than a second received 2,310,000,000 results.  This in itself is an act of faith – how far can I trust Google, how reliable are the results it cites, how reputable are the people quoted in the results, etc.  "Faith" has so many meanings; some examples: The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen – Hebrews, 11:1 Complete trust or confidence in someone or something; strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof – Oxford dictionary "When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen:  Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly." – Edward Teller (nuclear physicist)|As you can appreciate, faith comes to mean so many things to so many people.  Peter believed Jesus was the Messiah, but at times Peter was distracted from his belief by some realities of life – the storm, for example, distracts him from continuing his walk on water, and the pending crucifixion of Jesus leads to his denial in the courtyard of the temple.  The crowd believed touching the cloak of Jesus would cure them, but they abandoned Jesus (as did the apostles) when Jesus was tried and convicted and put to death.|Faith to me means a belief firmly held and upon which we feel compelled to act in a manner that is consistent with the belief.  As Christians we believe in the salvific power of the resurrection, the admonitions from Jesus about how to live our lives, the exponential power of love of others versus love of self.  We strive to help rather than hurt, to heal rather than injure, to share rather than hoard.  We believe that by following these examples we will create the Kingdom of God on earth, and result in a better tomorrow, even if we are not alive to enjoy the results ourselves.|I plant fruit and shade trees every spring on our acreage.  I know it probably will take 7 – 10 years for them to bear fruit or provide decent shade, and probably 15 or more years to reach maturity.  I believe – I have faith – that unless something interferes with their growth and maturation, they will be stately trees at some point in the future.  I may not be here to see that day, but I have faith that it will happen.  I also have faith that even if I do not see the mature tree, someone (my children or grandchildren) will appreciate the gifts provided by the trees.|Much has happened in the last twelve months since I first wrote this reflection.  The world-wide pandemic, the election in the US and resulting challenges to its results, racial unrest, the emerging evidence that climate change is actually affecting our daily lives sooner than anticipated.  There are challenges to many of our faithfully held beliefs – science, political leadership, the basic decency of our brothers and sisters across all walks of life, the ability of nature to nurture us with its bounties and beauties.  It seems as though we can't make it through a week without some emerging issue that causes us to stop and evaluate who we are and in what we have faith.|But there also are other events that reinforce our faith – bonding by disparate communities, responses to natural disasters, sharing of food and shelter and medical supplies with those who are needier than us.  We can find good stories and good people who can reinforce our faith in a variety of situations.|My faith might be shaken if a doe does come by and takes a bite out of one of my new trees.  But I still believe in the process of growth, and I can replant.  Peter was shaken by the storm and his betrayal, but he still believed, and eventually believed so strongly that he was willing to die for love of the Lord.  Crowds abandon true leaders, but they return time and again as they reflect on the power of the message from those who instill faith.  We see destructive droughts and wildfires and floods, but we also see people taking steps to respond to good thinking on how our actions can be modified to reduce our harmful impacts on our precious gift of creation.|I think when we see good people respond in good ways to the challenges we all face to our faith in all its dimensions, we are seeing the power of the Spirit working through them to remind us that our Loving Parent will give us the strength we need to sustain ourselves, our sisters and brothers, our societies, and our world.  This is ultimately the message of Jesus – we should love each other as our God loves us.  If we can, then our faith will grow, not diminish, and our actions will be a loving expression of gratitude to the Parent who made us all.|And so, my prayer today is for the grace to be aware of how my faith is being challenged in so many ways, to feel the power of the Spirit in strengthening that faith, and to be grateful for how faith in all its manifestations shapes my life. 
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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