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Walking a tightrope….

April 27, 2013

In the mid-19th Century the Charles Blondin was famous as the man who could walk a tightrope across the Niagara Falls. He even did it once with a wheelbarrow instead of a balancing pole. Before setting off he asked people if they believed he could do it. They all cried, “Yes!” Hearing this, he then said, ‘If you truly believe, get in the wheelbarrow and come with me!’ No volunteers!

Our belief in Jesus can be a bit like that. We believe. We definitely believe. We know we believe. But we can hesitate when our belief is tested.

We are Christians for very rational reasons, based on trustworthy witnesses like Saint John. We believe in the Resurrection, we believe Jesus is God, we believe that through His Church, Jesus can prepare us for and get us to heaven. And we are surrounded by people who are intrigued and bemused by our beliefs, and we Catholics can get frightened if they ask us about our faith…. We’re frightened we’ll get the explanation wrong, or we’ll be mocked. We’re frightened of that ‘wheelbarrow moment’, when we are invited to jump in and have real faith.

Let me share a good tip I learnt for how to deal with those cringingly difficult moments when you might suddenly feel an urge to talk about your faith with someone, but hesitate. The urge you feel is the Holy Spirit in you, calling you to be bold in your Christian mission. The hesitation is a lack of faith, perhaps tinged with a bit of pride. So here’s what to do if someone says ‘Why do you go to church?’ In these situations, don’t panic – rely on the tools God has given you. Your faith and your reason.

So, first, use your struggling faith to make an instant prayer. “God, help me” is an excellent prayer. It works. You’re praying for your faith to hold firm.

Then follow up your prayer by using the brains God gave you when He created you. Use your brains to reason. Ask yourself, “Why is this person asking me this question. If they’re asking just to try and catch you out, to humiliate you, to make a fool of you, you are entitled to turn the tables and say “No, I’m not going to tell you.” At the very least they may come back later when they are in a better frame of mind.

But, if your faith, if the Holy Spirit in you because of your baptism, leads you to discern that the person is genuine, it is the moment to boldly jump into that wheelbarrow. You’re in safe hands. You believe…..

The answer to give them is, “Come and see”. The very words Jesus used to invite his first disciples. And that invitation doesn’t necessarily just mean bringing people to Sunday mass – they’d probably be even more confused. No, it probably means putting them in touch with someone you trust to pass on the gift of faith, to gently let them explore the teachings of the Church.

So, next time you say the Creed at mass, use the opportunity to pray for each of us to be strengthened in our faith. And then boldly join in the special prayer we’re tacking on the end of the creed during this Year of Faith, words taken from the Rite of Baptism:

“This is our faith, the faith of the Church.

We a proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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