So I heard a story about this priest who was going on a missionary trip to Africa. Before he departs, he took some time to pray that God would protect him and keep him safe. And in prayer, God responded to him saying, “Do not fear, I will protect you on the way, if only you have trust in me.” So the priest goes to Africa, and as he is walking on a mountain on his way to another village, and there is a huge avalanche. The priest finds himself clinging by his fingernails above a lake full of crocodiles. Soon a group of tourists in a van comes along and asks, “Do you need any help?” And the priest responded, “No, I put my trust in God.” Later a boat came along and the people on board asked if they could bring him aboard. And the priest said again, “No, I put my faith in God.” So later a group of scientists in a helicopter came and asked him the same thing. Again, the priest told them that he placed his trust in God. Well, as it would happen, at that moment, the priest lost his grip and fell into the lake and got eaten by crocodiles. So he gets to heaven (he made a good confession before he left) and he said, “What happened? I though you said if I put my trust in you, you’d protect me?” And God shrugged his shoulders and answered, “Well, I don’t know! I sent a car, a boat, and a helicopter…”
You know, it seems like every Mass is about trust and faith, but to be honest, it’ a message that we just can’t hear enough. So this Gospel is for all of us who are control freaks. I can’t imagine being called by Jesus and volunteering for this amazing mission, only for him to tell me to bring almost nothing with me! That would drive me nuts, because in my packing, so many times, I’m concerned about those “what if’s.” Well what if a shirt gets ruined? What if it gets really cold while I’m away? What if I get bored? A lot of control issues aren’t control issues in the first place – they’re trust issues. And that’s nothing new. That’s how all of this began way back in the Book of Genesis – Adam and Eve had trust issues.
I think it brings up to us a question or two about faith. What is faith in the first place? It’s a lot more than just believing without seeing. Faith is trust without reservation. Faith is a sheer gift of God, which we receive when we fervently ask for it. Faith is that supernatural power that is absolutely necessary for our salvation. Faith comes from free will and clear understanding. Faith is incomplete unless it actually leads to active love. Faith grows when we listen more and more to Christ in the Word of God and interact with him in prayer. Faith gives us even now a foretaste of the joy of heaven. Faith is absolutely certain, because Christ himself guarantees it. A lot of people say that simply believing and having faith isn’t enough for them because they want to know. But what’s interesting is that the word “believe” has two completely different meanings when used in different contexts. If you’re getting ready to skydive, and you ask the pilot, “Is the parachute packed?” and he says, “Hmmm, well I believe so,” chances are that you’re not going to jump out of the plane. But if the pilot were to say, “Absolutely, I did it myself. Can you trust me?” And you might answer, “Yes, I believe you.” That kind of belief or faith is much more than just knowing that things are right. It’s an assurance. So when Christ sends out the 72 in the Gospel today, inviting them to trust him, he’s giving them an assurance, inviting them to trust that he will provide for them.
What would you answer if I asked you, “Do you trust God?” A few weeks ago, we had Vacation Bible School at the parish, and I walked in at one point to hear all these little kids singing about trusting God. And it’s really cute when you hear little kids singing about trust, but honestly, what kind of problems do they have that they are forced to trust in God? I think a lot of us thinking about this invitation to trust and find it clichéd. It sounds nice when we hear about trust in the Gospel, but we tend to think that our issues are much too complicated for God. But the truth is that Christ does understand trust. He became like us in all things but sin, even to the extent of having his trust tested. Even at Gethsemane before his death, he knew he would have to die. And I don’t know if he knew how it would all work out in the end, but he received the assurance of God, and trusted, saying, “Not my will, Father, but yours be done.” And his prayer of trust was rewarded with the glorious Resurrection.
Do we trust the Lord? Do we trust that he speaks to us in prayer? Do we trust that the sacraments do for us what we say they do? Do we trust that he will give us what we need, even in difficult situations? What are we trusting for? If we are trusting in tangible successes or results in whatever it is we’re struggling with – if we’re trusting that God will provide for us what we expect him to provide, is that really trust? At the end of the Gospel today, Christ tells his disciples today not to rejoice or trust because of what they were able to do, or because people know their names for the works they’ve done. He invites them to trust and rejoice because Heaven knows their names. As we come before him in the Eucharist today, may we trust in his providential guidance for us, placing our hearts in his hands to give us whatever we need on our journey.