A few years ago I met a young novice preparing to be a Jesuit priest. I remember him well because he was in the middle of a tremendous journey that I would have found impossible to undertake. After completing his first year of studies, he was given a bus ticket to Macon, Georgia. He had never been there, and his mission was to live entirely on the goodness and charity of others without staying in one place for more than three days. In six weeks he needed to reach Saint Louis, Missouri. He had to accomplish this without money, without staying in hotels, without a cellphone and only with the clothes on his back.
When he arrived to Macon, he walked from the bus station to the parish down the road. After he was given a sandwich there, he continued his journey to another parish. On the way he stopped at the library to learn about the Jesuit history of Macon, and while there, he met a parishioner from the other parish. She drove the novice to the church, and he stayed there for three days.
When I told my pastor the novice’s story, he quickly replied, “that’s crazy!” I was stunned by his response, but as I thought more about it, I realized how crazy the whole situation was. Placing unconditional trust in God is crazy, it is difficult, but He never disappoints. In his providence, God does provide for our needs. The novice’s experience was an extreme method to learn this. The purpose of his journey was to experience first-hand what the first apostles experienced when they were sent out by Jesus so many centuries ago without a money bag, without a walking stick, without food, and without a second tunic.
The greatest miracles happen wherever the greatest need is present, so God’s greatest miracles are seen among the poorest and neediest because so often all they have is their trust in God’s providence. They must trust unconditionally that the Lord will provide because on their own, they will fail.
I will always remember what a man told me while visiting a religious community in the Andes of Peru. This Frenchman was in charge of the farm of an orphanage where food was produced to feed about 1,000 children daily. He explained that every year he accounts for everything that is produced and stored, and that without fail, every year, more food is taken out from the warehouse than what is put in. He confessed, “Father, God has to provide, because based only on what we produce, we would be unable to feed all these children.” This man trusts unconditionally in God’s providence, that without any doubt, God will give the children what they need.
This degree of trust in God’s providence is liberating because by trusting God all fears and burdens are cast away. The more we have and achieve, the more we will trust in ourselves and our own abilities. The temptation that arises is to believe ourselves to be all powerful, that we can do all things on our own. In other words, that we are self-made. The more we have, the more difficult it is to trust others, including God. Jesus gently asks for this trust when he says, “come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Picture is mine, all rights reserved. Kenya, 2019.