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What CATegory are you in? A Meditation on why the Lord”needs”our faith.

April 6, 2014
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“Kittyply edit1” by David Corby, Edited by: Arad – Image:Kittyplya03042006.JPG. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

One of the main threads that ran through Sunday’s Gospel about the raising of Lazarus was faith, the need for faith and the Lord’s desire to draw others to a deeper faith. Jesus permits the illness and subsequent death of Lazarus, and even delays coming in order to increase their faith. He persistently questions both Martha and Mary about their faith and prays aloud that the crowd will come to come to greater faith. Yes, Jesus wants to grow everyone’s faith. This is something about which he is passionate – but why?

Simply put, faith is the door that must be opened by us in order for the Lord to go to work. And while faith itself is a grace – a gift – it is a grace that interacts with our freedom. Faith is the supernaturally granted, assisted, and transformed human element that opens the door for every other work of God.

Over and over again, the Lord Jesus links faith to his saving work. Either it is something he inquires about before a miracle, or he announces it after a miracle. Sometimes, due to the lack of faith, he “cannot” work a miracle. Consider some of the following texts that link faith to the work of Jesus:

  • When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” (Mt 9:28-29)
  • But Jesus turning and seeing [the woman who touched his garment] said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well. (Matt 9:22)
  • Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. (Matt 8:13)
  • Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matt 9:2)
  • Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matt 15:28)
  • • “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mk 10:52)
  • Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Lk 17:19)
  • Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:25-26)
  • • Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief. (Mk 6:4-6)

So in these and many other places, the Lord is absolutely insistent upon and needful of our faith in order to go to work. Faith is our “Yes.” Faith is our opening of the door to the Lord, who stands outside and knocks (cf Rev 3:20).

But why is this so? Perhaps an image or analogy will work. It is a humble one to be sure, but it may help to illustrate why the Lord “needs” our faith.

I have lived in the city for most of my twenty-five years as a priest. Now cities have streets, streets have alleys, and alleys have alley cats. And I have discovered that it is a very good thing to take care of the alley cats. It is because of them that there are very few if any rats in our alley. And this is a very great blessing. In gratitude, I take care of the alley cats – or at least I try to.

I say “try” because I have learned that there are three different categories of alley cat (get it? “CATegories…?). And depending upon which category they fall into, I am more or less able to help them.

The first category contains those alley cats that greatly trust me. They are the ones who come up onto the back porch when I return home and greet me. They rub up against my leg and arch their backs. They let me rub their necks. Among these alley cats have been Ellen Bayne, Jenny June, Katie Bell, Gracie Allen, and Oscar Wilde. (Yes, I name them all.) So trusting are these cats that I’m able not only to feed them, but often to get them necessary medical help. Because of their trust, I am able to help them greatly. Their trust, you might say their “faith,” opens the door and allows me to be a great help to them.

The second category contains those alley cats that stand at a distance and will not come close to me. They will allow me to put food out on the back porch, but they wait until I close the door to come up and partake of it. However, they usually only get the leftovers after Ellen Bayne and the others have already had their fill. This second type will not allow me to touch them, so they never get their necks rubbed, nor am I able to help them when they are injured or need medicine. Because they trust me less, I am able to do less for them.

The third category contains those that will have nothing to do with me simply because I am a human being. The very scent of a human being means that they will have nothing to do with anything carrying that scent. These cats will never come up the steps of my back porch, and any food that I would put out would go uneaten because it carries that human scent. Because they do not trust me at all, there’s nothing I can do for them, absolutely nothing.

And in all of this, there is a lesson. Trust opens the door, and then I can help the cats. A lot of trust yields a lot of help; a little trust yields a little help; no trust yields no help. And it is this way with us and God. Jesus needs our trust and our faith in order to be able to go to work, in order to “be able” to help us. What CATegory are you in?

While it is true that God could simply overrule us and force his help upon us, he does not generally do this. He needs our faith, our opening of the door, our trust to be able to go to work.

And this is why Jesus is so insistent in yesterday’s Gospel, on drawing out faith from those who lament Lazarus. This is why, all throughout the Gospels, the Lord connects his greatest works with faith and trust. He looks for faith, demands faith, needs faith in order to work miracles. And when he works them, he commends the faith of those who receive them. It is faith that opens the door.

Yes, what CATegory are you in? See how important faith is and how it opens the door? Lord increase our faith! I do believe Lord; help my unbelief!

Photo at upper right: “Ellen Bayne”

Comments (7)

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  1. Annette Strachan says:

    The Angel’s prayer – given to the three children by the angel who preceded Our Lady’s first appearance to them
    at Fatima, Portugal in 1917 – is worth revisiting at this time.

    O most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly.
    I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus.Christ, present in all the tabernacles
    of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences by which He is offended.
    And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
    I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.

    (Say Three Times)

  2. David F says:

    Thank you for this analogy – it really explains, in an accessible way, a question I had.

  3. edraCruz says:

    Grace! Yes, that is what am in CATegory of. I have done nothing to deserve HIS Mercy. Maybe there was someone, a Saint, who interceded for me that I may have the Grace of conversion, that brought forth Faith. Another cat introduced and brought me to my MASTER. Thanks be to GOD. Perhaps, my wife. Perhaps, my mother. Perhaps Mama Mary. Perhaps you, Monsi, during your meditations. Thanks Anette Strachan for that prayer. It must have been prayed for me that I now walk in the Light of CHRIST, though I am still a work in process. YHWH SHEKINAH.

  4. Maria says:

    Pretty neat too , that you are using cats for this analogy , since it might be the ‘beast like a leopard ‘ that have come into many lives , one way or other , esp.from such things like entanglements in the occult , even if unknowingly ,left over claims of the enemy from unrepentant sin in family lines , that might have taken away the capacity to trust and love .
    The Lord’s invitation , for us needing help to have the stones removed – the stone of hardness of heart, by a good confession and the ties of idolatrous attachments to things / persons , also through works of penance and reparation is noteworthy , as you have poitned out well ..

    ( Hope Oscar Wilde is getting some prayers too ! ) – 🙂

    That scene you describe in the previous post about The Lord seeming perturbed – had not thought much about same before .

    Would it be that the enemy was trying to instigate the Pharisees , to do away with The Lord , before the appointed time of Passover ( Bl Emmerich mentions this incident took place atleast 3 months before the Passion ) and was also the enemy’s retaliation for loss of the sister of Lazarus – Magdalene from its clutches and The Lord seeing the unfolding game , possibly wanted the disciples to be strenghtend and comforted and warn off the enemy from those who are His , until their appointed times of ‘glorification’, of being ready to lay down their lives, for The Lord !

    Interestingly , Bl.Emmerich mentions how the sisters of Lazarus kept the body for 4 days , hoping The Lord would come and heal him – which , in itself could have been the act of faith , that helped in some measure the events that follow and that it really was 8 days after the death that the miracle takes place – a discrepancy at one level , unless we think , in their good faith, they really thought of only the time when they possibly lost hope and thus considering him dead only for the time in the tomb ; Bl.Emmerich also mentions amazingly of a silent Mary , who was another sister of Lazarus, not Mary Magdalene , who sat at the feet of The Lord , to listen to Him and how she was a simple , child like person , who did not live for long .

    If it was really a miracle of the 8th day , there is also the connection to The Feast of Divine Mercy , which is on the Octave of Easter – a day in which , for the graces promised, for many to be set free , from the stones of unbelief , thus to be able to trust , even if the untying seems to take a while – of oneself and of others ; we can be grateful that we also have the Undoer of Knots , our Mother , to keep helping us and all in our lives , by the infinite power of The Lord ,who did not need any help in having the stone removed or the ties undone !

    Our God is an awesome God !

  5. Maria says:

    Just heard the news reports about the heroin epidemic in the country – ? esp worse up north , since Vermont gets mentioned and thougt of the cats who would not /could not come to Him , to be fed and loved !

    Would it be that the children of the parents whose bodies and psyche carry the pain and memories of the lost unborns are dealing with the generational pain , in the seemingly easy manner they know how !

    Do the nation need to start counting better , all the hidden and unfathomable costs of giving room to the tempter and destroyer !

    Having the John Paul 11 center in Wash . D.C , wonder if these young people are offered a chance for healing , through a 2- 3 day intense fasting retreat , focused on mercy and exorcism ..repeated every 3-4 months , until they get so transfromed, to be the agents of the Militia – of The Immaculata !

    May the prayers of St.Maximilian , help you with the desire for the publishing of the book and in helping many young , to rewrite their books on life , about His mercy and power , like new Lazarus !

  6. Robertlifelonfcatholic says:

    If you could sedate the behaviors of the second and third CATegories of alley cats by continually exposing them to the CATechism, they may be CATholics? I just had a CATharsis I’m not trying to be mean and nasty. : )

  7. Anne Marie says:

    Thank-you Msgr. Pope for this excellent article and yes, I do like its reference to cats. God Bless.