Faith works wonders. To walk by faith, and not by sight, is one of the greatest challenges and joys of the spiritual life. This is the invitation to all in this Sunday’s Scripture readings.
The saints show us how to grow in faith in the daily circumstances of life. Holy men and women, known and hidden, have over the centuries witnessed to the power of walking by faith. Take the life of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose feast day the church celebrates this coming week.
Born into an aristocratic Italian family, the young Aloysius was set to inherit his family’s wealth and pursue a life of fame and public honor. He was sent to Florence and later to Mantua for his education and began reading the “Lives of the Saints” while recovering from an illness. It was then that he heard the Lord’s call to give his life in self-giving love as a missionary.
He was drawn to the Jesuit order, but his family did all they could to prevent him from answering the call to the priesthood. His family forbade his entry to the priesthood with the threat that he would have to renounce his inheritance and social status. He continued on, walking by faith, as he gave up all rights of inheritance to enter the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Rome.
Soon after, he dedicated himself to teaching the faith to youth and to caring for those suffering from the plague and other contagious diseases. The witness of his holiness and purity of life spread among the people, like branches of a tree. He died with the name of Jesus on his lips, radiating the peace and love of God.
In the Gospels, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. This smallest of seeds when sown in the ground, grows into the largest of plants, putting forth branches that spread out as shelter and shade. This imagery continues the teaching of the prophet Ezekiel in the first reading when God promises to plant a cedar on the mountain heights.
This cedar plant will, by God’s nourishing, become a majestic cedar in which birds of every kind dwell and find shade in its branches. The Lord God promises that he will bring low the high tree, and lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree and make the withered tree bloom. God’s mighty hand will do this.
As we ponder the word of God today, we are invited to walk by faith, and not by sight. This journey of faith begins in the grace of God, who plants the seed and gives growth to the gift of faith in our lives. Our daily challenge is to let go of self-reliance and to grow in friendship with Jesus as we say in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”