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Looking for a sign or giving up control?
by Ann Marie Castleman | August 2, 2012
Scripture Reflection for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 5, 2012)
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
Looking for a sign or giving up control: What’s a true sign of faith?
I recall going through a challenging period about 3 years ago. I was living in Chicago at the time with two wonderful roommates and working as a worker’s rights organizer. I loved my job and my roommates, but I felt very unsettled and spiritually unfulfilled. I just wasn’t quite myself and felt I had somehow lost touch with God. I knew I was ready for a change and that it meant leaving Chicago, but I wasn’t sure what to do, where to go or how to get back to God.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells the people at Capernaum, “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst” (6:31). It sounds pretentious, but I had already known that. I mean, I really knew that; I had experienced it before, yet at some point along the way I had gotten wrapped up in myself and worldly things. I was very involved with my work and had an active social life, but underneath all that busyness, I was very restless. I wasn’t sure how to get back to God and the things in life that fed me spiritually. I was stuck and like the Israelites in the first reading, I too was looking for a sign from God.
When the people at Capernaum asked Jesus for a sign like the Israelites were given in the desert, Jesus replied that they had to believe in order to “see.” Well, I already believed in Jesus. That wasn’t the problem. What I needed to do was go a step beyond that. To truly believe you also have to trust and relinquish control…not an easy task in our culture and especially not for someone whose job consistently required taking control of whatever situation presented itself and organizing others to respond.
In talking with my spiritual director at the time, I decided that instead of looking for a sign, I needed to trust God and let God take control. I also quickly discovered that was much easier said than done.
My challenge was not that I didn’t believe; it was that I didn’t trust God to lead me where I was to go next. No wonder I felt out of touch. How can you have a relationship that’s not based on trust and relinquishing a certain amount of control? That’s what it means to have faith. It’s not something nominal. It’s a deep-seated, all-encompassing trust that no matter what happens everything will work out for the best in the grand scheme of God’s plan.
It was a definite challenge, but in the end I did learn to relinquish control and trust in God again. To no one’s surprise, everything worked out much better that I could have planned myself. I did leave Chicago after I was offered an opportunity to work abroad. That opportunity led to new faith experiences, meeting my husband, and beginning a career in public health…all completely unanticipated at the time of my distress three years ago. It’s funny how things work out when you give up control.
Jesus’ response to the people at Capernaum was simple: believe in him. That might sound like an easy task for any follower of Jesus. The true test comes when we realize what having faith means for our lives.
God knows what God is doing. Our task is to trust and have faith. Sometimes that’s not an easy task.
Ann Marie Castleman
Ann Marie Castleman was a 2009 Catholics on Call participant. She has a degree in Theology from Xavier University and is currently a master of public health student at the University of Minnesota.