By Dawn Paderanga
To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see (TEV, Hebrews 11:1). For faith to grow and bear fruit, it has to be nurtured. For it to withstand the test of time and the seemingly insurmountable circumstances, it has to be grounded firmly in God. But how can one’s faith be nurtured?
We are aware that to many of us, what weighs more is what is seen with the eye. For us who have not had the opportunity to encounter Jesus in the flesh, many are like doubting Thomases. When life gets hard and when everything does not seem to fall into place, doubt at times overcomes those little seeds of faith planted in our hearts.
Jesus once told Thomas, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (NIV, John 20:29). In this present time, how can we safeguard our faith? What miracle would it take for us to have a change of heart?
Pope Francis, in one of his homilies, encouraged Christians to remember the first time they felt the love of God. He noted that it is important to recall the grace received because if we chase away that enthusiasm which comes from the memory of that first love, then we are in grave danger of becoming Christians with lukewarm faith.
Being raised in a Catholic family is indeed a blessing in itself. Blessed with God-fearing parents, Christian values are instilled in us from a very young age. As we grow, we bring with us the very first seeds of Catholic faith. As we come of age and associate with different kinds of people with varying sets of beliefs, we reach some crossroads and we may begin to question what we believe in. When the going gets tough and our faith is tested we sometimes lose hope and eventually shy away from God.
God works in ways we sometimes cannot fathom. I am in awe at how He has played a very important part in my life, making His presence felt countless of times. I remember the tough time I had when I was in third grade and we moved to Mindanao. My family, though not really well-off, was living comfortably. My parents were capable of providing for our needs and I went to a private school. Then suddenly, rough times came and my world turned upside down. We transferred to a different community where I knew no one. My parents found it hard to make ends meet and I was not enrolled in school.
In a twist of fate, my family transferred to another barrio. This time our house was just in front of an elementary school. Every morning I saw children my age passing by with bags in hand. I felt a tinge of sadness. Deep in my heart, I was longing to go back to school.
One fateful noon, my mom asked me to buy lunch from a nearby eatery. The storekeeper asked if I was attending classes and I meekly answered that I wasn’t. She asked if I might be interested. The school principal often took her lunch there and the storekeeper told me that maybe my mom can have a word with the principal and discuss the possibility of enrolling me despite the fact that classes had already started for quite a while.
That simple gesture, that little act of concern, changed my life. Right at that very moment, my prayer was answered. I was amazed at how God can touch one’s heart and how He can turn hopeless situations into a moment of grace. Yes, it was just a very simple encounter; it was not even out of the ordinary. Yet, it watered those seeds of faith that were planted in my heart.
Up to this day, I smile when I remember the encounter. When things seem amiss, I simply recall that memory of love and utter my prayers. It will always be a reminder for me that God never fails me.