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Monday, December 22, 2008

For With God, Nothing Is Impossible!

There are holy, humble priests throughout the world, and I'm grateful to be friends with one of them. His name is Fr John Riccardo, one of the architects of the annual Men's Conferences that have been held in the Archdiocese of Detroit for five years running. He can be heard locally on WDEO (990 AM) at various times through the week. Many of his talks and "Theology on Tap" series are available on-line. I encourage you to check out his materials, or perhaps catch his program "Christ Is The Answer" (11:00 AM EST) via the live streaming feature at the WDEO site.

I've had opportunities to talk with him on several occasions, and his words have always been spot-on and encouraging. We played golf one time - and let me say that I think it's downright sinful for a priest to hit a drive 300 yards plus down the middle of the fairway.

Yesterday, I received an email of his that provides some perspective on the crises and struggles facing us, particularly those of us in Michigan. His words, though, apply to everyone, in any circumstance.

I recently had the chance to sit in on a conversation that has left me with something of an indelible image in my mind. The details about who was talking aren’t important, but the conversation was one that revolved around the topic of faith and in particular someone’s struggles with issues of faith – not so much flat out belief in God, but rather those littler questions that nag all of us at one time or other, questions like, “Will God provide for me?” or “Do I have what it takes to do what’s being asked of me?” In the course of the discussion, the story of David and Goliath came up. The man doing the talking started with something like this…

The Israelites and the Philistines were encamped on opposite side of a valley, and were about to engage in an all-out war when out from the lines stepped Goliath and challenged the Israelites to pick one soldier to do battle with him in a winner take all duel. The Israelite soldiers, professional soldiers, looked at this giant of a man, then considered their own skills and talents, and each came to the conclusion, “I can’t win that battle.” And they judged rightly. They didn’t have the strength, the skill, or the necessary gifts to win the day.

Then along comes David. David is not a professional soldier. He’s a shepherd – granted, he’s a pretty darn good shepherd, seeing as he has killed a bear and a lion in defense of the flock he cared for. David hears the insults Goliath is hurling at his brothers and comes to the King, Saul, and says, “I’ll fight him.” What gives? How is it that countless professional soldiers said, “No” and this shepherd youth said, “Yes”? The answer was in the fact that David didn’t look at Goliath and measure his own strength against his. He didn’t ask the question, “Can I beat him.” He simply asked, “Can God beat him?” And the answer to that was a resounding, “Yes!”

In these days I have sensed over and over again that there is a pall hanging over our State, like one of those grey February afternoons where the sun refuses to shine. As we look at the local economy, especially as we consider the future of the Detroit 3 and all of the companies and people who make a living related to them, fear and anxiety is occupying more and more of our minds. And rightly so! So long as we look at the challenges and obstacles that face us, how can we not be afraid or anxious? But when we do this we imitate the Israelite soldiers. We need to imitate David!

In these Advent days we hear on several occasions the passage in Luke’s Gospel of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary (Luke 1:26-38). Near the end of that passage comes the truth that has been ringing in my mind throughout these days: “For with God, nothing is impossible.” Nothing is impossible for God! This isn’t to say He will provide a miraculous deliverance as regards the economy. But it is to say that no matter what we’re dealing with, or what is coming our way in the future, He will be faithful. He never allows any trial to come our way for which He does not provide the grace and strength that we need not merely to get through it but to go through it with joy.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and the reality that God is Immanuel, God with us, let us ask Him for the grace to keep our eyes on Him, to call out for His strength, to trust that He will always be with us, and for the grace to grow in confidence that for Him nothing is impossible.