Faith — Why aren’t we moving mountains?

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Dear Sister Benedicta Marie,

In scripture Jesus says that if we have faith of a mustard seed we can move mountains. Why aren’t we moving mountains? Does anyone really have that kind of faith?

Dear Friend,

Just to add a little fuel to the fire let me add that in John’s Gospel we also read: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father”! (John 14:12)

I believe we live in a time when it is particularly easy for Christians of all stripes to be discouraged by what we see around us in society. Also, it is easy to feel that we are not truly honoring scripture as the inspired word of God when we see ourselves and others ignore, skip over or explain away bold passages like these. Perhaps I am misinterpreting you, but I think you are addressing the general loss of faith we see throughout the world? In dealing with your disappointment (or frustration?) you may want to consider the following factors.

Interpreting the Passage

We do not understand a passage of scripture until we first discover the meaning its human author(s) intended to convey. These human authors, referred to in the Catechism as the “sacred author(s)” used most of the literary genre and techniques we are familiar with – and more. The meaning they intended is called the literal sense of scripture. While the literal sense certainly does not exhaust the meaning of any scripture passage, it must always be the starting point for our interpretation (Catechism of the Catholic Church #109-117). All this is simply to say that when an author is using a metaphor he must be understood metaphorically. If the author or speaker is engaging in hyperbole to make a point, it would be unfair (and inaccurate) to interpret his words literally. This is not ‘explaining away’ the passage – this is an honest approach to understanding what we are really being told, and perhaps detaching from what we would like to think we are being told. Moving mountains could, but does not necessarily refer to visible – much less geographic – ‘wonders’.

Interpreting the Will of God

I am usually uncomfortable with people who habitually speak in certitudes about ‘why this happened’, ‘what God is telling us in this’, and ‘what God wants us to do, is,…’, etc. I have checked my pockets untold times and I have yet to find God hiding in any of them. He is just way too big and way too mysterious for me figure out and ‘speak for’ in this manner. Oh, yes, of course – there are a multitude of certainties we do not need to puzzle over – we are all supposed to keep the 10 Commandments all the time. This principle does not need interpretation or nuance. But interpreting for others the meanings and intent of the workings of Divine Providence on a personal or societal level is a profoundly different matter. It is in fact the work of the prophet – and to this role no one calls himself – unless he is a false prophet. God can and does enlighten individuals in very special and specific ways today as he has ever done – but we had better be very cautious about ascribing or expecting others to be divine oracles.

Interpreting the Times

Blessed, and soon to be Saint, John Paul II, spoke of a new springtime for the Church in the future. If his words were indeed prophetic, can we expect what I will call a ‘Resurrection of Faith’ to occur in the world without the prelude to every resurrection, the darkness of the Cross? Is it possible that what we are seeing and feeling in much of civilization is something akin to a ‘dark night’? I would not be the first to speculate in this direction. When a resurrection does occur, it is ‘from the dead’ not from the ill. If some kind of resurrection is really what we want to see (rather than an improvement) then we must be ready to see this resurrection preceded by a corresponding death. No doubt as that occurs – and death can be slow – we will hear any number of ‘anti-prophets’ telling us (again) that God is dead, the Church is dead, and all the rest. Personally I expect it to go on and on. And on. And it is going to be very disheartening because it is going to look so undeniably true. It will in fact be true in every measurable way. But faith is not only about believing what you cannot prove empirically – it is also about staying on the road and on the march while being pelted from both sides with a ton of discouragement.

In sum, moving mountains no doubt refers to very great deeds, miracles quite possibly, but: are you absolutely certain God wants this mountain moved? At this time? To this location? What if this mountain you want moved so badly – what if it stands in our path specifically because we are supposed to be climbing it, not moving it?

Until next time,

Sister Benedicta Marie, O.C.D


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Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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