About a year ago my church started putting a "Question of the Week" in the bulletin. They titled it "Following the Message: Reflections on the Weekly Gospel." The idea behind it was that it would give families, church committees, small faith sharing groups, and even individuals, a means for starting conversation and/or further reflection on the Gospel passage heard at Mass that Sunday. Sometimes they even provide an alternate question for kids.
I haven't really reflected on the question much at all, but recently decided that I should try to do so and try to post some of my thoughts on the blog. This way others can see the questions, read the Gospel, and comment as well.
Today's Gospel was from the Gospel of Mark 4:35-41. To sum up, it is the passage where Jesus and the disciples cross the sea to the other side, a storm pops up and the disciples are frightened. Jesus is sound asleep, they wake him, he chides them for not having faith, then calms the seas. The questions for reflection are:
When have I felt that my faith was being tested?
And alternately, for kids:
Do I ask Jesus for help when I'm scared?
When I looked at this question, one situation in my life (very recently actually) immediately popped into my mind. I didn't lose my faith, but I do think it was certainly a test of my faith.
In January of this year, I was 22 weeks pregnant when my water broke and my husband and I rushed to the hospital. We had been planning on going anyway, because I had been very uncomfortable (I was having contractions, but didn't know it) and was getting concerned, but we left quite quickly when my water broke. That was a Saturday morning. After a thorough exam the baby was still alive, but I was admitted as a precaution (chance of infection was great, etc., etc.). My husband and I sat in that hospital room waiting anxiously for any test results, waiting for each time my vitals and those of the baby were checked, each time holding our breath until we found that the baby still had a heartbeat. It was a scary situation, but we were pretty optimistic throughout that day.
During that ordeal I remember telling my husband that we had a fighter. Despite having lost the amniotic fluid, that baby was still alive. We prayed that he would continue to keep going, that the sac would heal itself, and that fluid would eventually return. We called our families and asked for prayers. My siblings called me to tell me about all the people they had talked to who were praying for us. It was a tough day, and yet all those prayers made me feel better. Saturday night before going to sleep, we said a rosary together, thinking about our baby the whole time.
Sunday morning my husband went to Church. While he was gone my vitals were checked again and the baby's heartbeat was now gone. The nurse called Chris and he came right back. That was one of the toughest days.
That situation was one where I could have easily lost faith in God. It was a test of the utmost proportions. Someone asked me during that next week if I was ever angry at God after our son died on that Sunday. Honestly I wasn't. I had brief moments when I wondered how something like this could happen, how God could let something like this happen. But the answer is no, I was never angry. Hurt, yes; confused, yes; grief-stricken, absolutely.
The temptation to be angry, or to wonder where God is was great. But although that temptation was there (and that's the test), I didn't surrender to it. I held onto my faith. But I also realize now that I needed the faith of those around me as well. We are not alone in our lives, none of us are. We have family, friends, our church community, and even strangers. All praying for us, whether we know it or not, and all sharing in our trials, our pains, and our heartbreaks.
I think that's one of the beauties of our faith. We aren't going at it alone. After the death of our son this past January when I started learning how many people had been praying for us, I was overwhelmed. We received tons of emails, cards, flowers, a few gifts, and lots of prayers through online message boards, Facebook, and who knows where else. God's goodness was in all those prayers. So even though I don't have my son with me, I have faith, and thus know, that he is with God in heaven, he is with Mary and all the saints, and he is with Christ.
So has my faith ever been tested? Yes, I think it has. And I hope that I passed that test. I feel like my faith is actually stronger now having gone through the pain of losing not only my little Zachary in January, but also a child before that as well. Our faith helps us to understand that our children are now saints, that they are now living with Christ in heaven, and they can be intercessors for us. That too is a blessing!
Feel free to share your own reflections on these questions or try the kids' question out with your children and let me know how the conversation went. I suggest reading the Gospel passage again before starting. Next weekend I'll be out of town, but hopefully will be able to grab a bulletin on Monday to try this again.