Over the last month we have witnessed the shaking, quaking and falling of many foundations. A rare earthquake shook the nation’s capital and literally cracked the national cathedral and parts of the Washington Monument.
The retirement of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., was announced, and some analysts are wondering how the company will continue. We witnessed the foundations of fear and repression fall in Libya — another casualty of the Arab Spring. And, we saw the foundations of homes, roads and city blocks washed away as Hurricane Irene swept through the Northeast leaving a wake of damage in unexpected places like Vermont and Maine.
Faith that struggles
Change is a part of life, but what are we to do when our very foundations and sense of security fail? What happens when the rules change and our assumptions about the way the world is supposed to work betray us?
We live in an era when major changes are happening all around us at an exhausting pace, making it hard to know on what to base our lives.
When we face the death of loved ones, debilitating illness, the loss of employment or a major disappointment, it can shatter our sense of givens in life. For example, the 9/11 attacks 10 years ago and the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ignited such a change for many.
When our foundations begin to crumble, some may retreat to the past and deny the present. Others may reject the past and try to go it alone. These great struggles can test our faith and call into question our assumptions about God. How are we to struggle in faith when the world we know seems to be changing or passing away?
The Scriptures are no stranger to a faith that struggles. There are many examples of foundations and assumptions being challenged.
In Genesis, Jacob wrestles all night with an angel and is permanently wounded. Afterward, he is renamed “Israel” which means “one who struggles with God.” During the great exile, Israel loses everything and feels abandoned by God.
Many of the prophets and psalms compare faith in exile to hungering and thirsting in a desert land. The story of Job describes one man’s struggle when life as he knows it is stripped away and all he has left is the mystery of God somehow being in the struggle with him.
In each case, the struggle reveals a new identity and a new experience of God’s presence.
In the Gospels, Jesus warns the disciples that the world, as they know it, is passing away and not to be caught unaware. He tells the Twelve that the Messiah must be rejected, suffer and die. When Peter objects, Jesus says, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do. . . . Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:23-24).
God’s way is the way of the cross. It is a way that honors taking up life’s struggles in faith. The way of the cross offers Christian disciples a spirituality of faith that struggles. It is a struggle between the world that is passing away and the world that is yet to come. It is the faith we are marked with at our baptism.
Taking up our cross
Each of two new memorials — one to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and one honoring the victims of the 9/11 attacks — is meant to give witness to a struggle that continues in our own time.
These memorials are not meant to excuse us from the struggle they stand for. We cannot let them become dead monuments. Nor can we allow the cross to become a dead monument.
On Sept. 14, we celebrated the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. It is a memorial to the living sacrifice that we are part of. It holds up a spirituality of struggle that helps us face the waves of change that will surely confront us.
Can we put our faith in the struggle, take up our cross and follow Jesus? Can we put our faith in life coming out of death? The spirituality of struggle could also be called a spirituality of hope!
Deacon Mickey Friesen is director of the archdiocesan Center for Mission.
Category: Mission Link