By Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Martin Amos began his homily last Sunday with the story of a little boy’s literal leap of faith, which resurfaced a poignant memory for me. He gave the homily during the Annual State of Iowa Seminarian Convocation on Aug. 10 at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Iowa City. His message wasn’t directed specifically to the 72 seminarians, but to all of us gathered: women, men and children of all ages and walks of life.
“It was a dark winter’s night, in a small farming community, when the two-story home of a young family caught fire …,” the bishop began. The parents and their children followed their well-executed emergency plan and made it outdoors to safety. But the father realized his 5-year-old son was still in the house. Hearing the boy’s cries, the father looked up to a second-story bedroom window and saw the child crying and rubbing his eyes.
“Jump son, I’ll catch you,” the father called out to his son. “Between sobs, the boy responded, ‘But I can’t see you, Daddy.’ ‘You can’t see me, but I can see you. Now jump,’ the father reassured his son. The boy jumped into the smoky darkness and found himself safely cradled in his father’s arms.”
Just like that little boy, all of us must take risks — seminarians discerning priesthood, married couples having families, young adults striking out on their own — and we trust that God will be with us. “That lesson is at the heart of today’s liturgy: faith is a risk,” the bishop said. But we are reminded, too, that “God is with us in those difficult times. We are not alone. Our risks are not unnoticed. We are accompanied and supported in the great and small leaps of faith.”
The bishop’s homily stirred a memory from 24 years ago when my husband Steve and I were trying to figure out life with a 3-year-old newly diagnosed with autism
In the middle of the night, Steve woke with a start and appeared ready to jump out of bed. I grabbed his arm and asked what was wrong. “There’s a fire! I have to save Colin!” Steve said with desperation. “No, Colin is OK. He’s sleeping in his bed,” I tried to reassure Steve. He had the same dream one other time, but I don’t recall what might have precipitated the second episode.
Looking back on that time, I recognize those early years of parenthood as risks that required enormous leaps of faith. We didn’t always know how to respond to our son’s needs, or even how to decipher what those needs were, but we trusted that God would guide us through the mazes.
Bishop Amos noted that faith takes a lot of courage, and referred to that day’s Gospel in which Peter attempted to walk on water to meet Jesus. “Peter had to leave his boat and risk his life on the sea in order to learn both his own weakness and the power of his Savior. When he began to sink, he didn’t try to swim back to the boat or call for the other disciples to throw him a life jacket,” the bishop said. “His peril called forth in him a faith that could only be found in Jesus.”
The bishop reminded us that faith requires a lifetime commitment, the courage to live our faith each day.
Steve no longer awakens in the middle of the night thinking he has to save Colin from a fire. Through our leaps of faith, and God’s grace, we have raised two sons who are also learning to take leaps of faith.