Thursday, 27 June 2013
Father Ignatius looked out of the window and heard the electrically-motorized milk van driving down the hill as it slowly approached the Parish House. The distinctive whirring of the battery operated motor, and the clinking of the glass milk bottles rattling against each other in their crates as the vehicle started and stopped every few yards, enhanced the musical dawn chorus as the sun woke up gently from its sleep.
Clink … clink … clink … sang the milk bottles as the birds chirped merrily amongst the trees greeting a new day. Clackety clack ... clackety clack ... clackety clack ... responded an old steam train in the distance as it danced past slowly on the metal rails.
The priest came down the stairs from his office and opened the front door just as Len, the milkman, put down two pints of milk on the doorstep and collected the empty bottles left there the previous night by Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper.
“Hello Len …” he said, “please do come in … I have a list somewhere of other items which Mrs Davenport asked for. I believe she wants an extra pint of milk, some cream, butter and cheese. Come sit in the kitchen whilst I find her list!”
The milkman sat down by the warm stove in the kitchen whilst the priest searched for the list prepared by his housekeeper.
“That’s an odd poster you have here …” said the milkman pointing at the wall, “To have Faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see … What does that mean exactly?”
“Well … it means what it says I suppose. To have Faith is to be sure that things will turn out exactly as you hope they will. To believe in something without seeing it …” replied Father Ignatius, “It’s from the Bible, Hebrews Chapter 11.”
“Yeh … I guessed that much. It’s still odd though” mumbled the milkman.
“What’s odd about it?”
“Well …” Len hesitated a little, “I’m not a religious man Father, a bit above my head all this religious stuff … but it is a little difficult to believe in something blind like … without proof … without seeing it with your eyes!”
“I agree … it is more than a little difficult. Very difficult I would say. That’s why they call it Faith." replied Father Ignatius handing Len the list.
“I believe in God … I haven’t seen Him of course … but I believe He exists. And in more ways than one I have proved it to myself, or He helped in proving it to me, that He exists all right.
“Now I can never prove His existence to you …”
“I would agree with that,” laughed Len.
“I could not prove it to you …” continued the priest gently, “but God could prove His existence to you … if only you’d be willing to take the first step … to dare to believe without any proof.”
“I can’t see myself doing that Father!” said Len reading the list prepared by Mrs Davenport.
“God asks us to trust Him … and He’ll do the rest” said Father Ignatius, “let me tell you a story … have you got a few minutes?”
The milkman nodded.
“There once was a very famous tight-rope walker. You know the kind …
“He’d walked across many rivers and ravines and canyons on a rope stretched between two points; and every time he attracted great crowds who came to see him. He was always successful, of course, and kept his balance despite the weather, the high winds and other difficulties which made his act both dangerous and exciting.
“And over the years he became very rich just by walking on a rope!
“One day he decided to retire. And for his last performance he decided to cross the Niagara Falls on a tight rope.
“Well … on the day in question the whole world and his uncle was there to witness the event.”
The milkman smiled.
“Before performing his walk the tight-rope walker picked up the microphone and thanked his audience for their support over the years.
“He then asked them … ‘Do you think I’ll be successful crossing the Niagara Falls?’
“The audience cheered enthusiastically and said ‘Yes …’ in unison. After all they’d witnessed his many walks over the years.
“So the tight-rope walker continued, ‘this time however it will be a bit different … I’ll walk across on this rope but I will also push a wheelbarrow in front of me … do you think I’ll be able to do this successfully across to the other side?’
“The audience shouted again ‘Yes …’ with one voice.
“OK, said the man … ‘I need a volunteer to sit in the wheelbarrow … who will come across with me?’
“Not surprisingly … nobody volunteered … the crowd remained silent. They had seen him perform his walks many times over the years … but not one of them had the courage to go across with him.”
The milkman looked at Father Ignatius rather puzzled.
“You see Len,” continued the priest, “they did not have Faith in him, even though they had seen him walk on a rope many times.
“And that’s what God asks of us … to have Faith, even without seeing for ourselves.
“To dare to trust Him without any proof. To dare to sit in the wheelbarrow and be carried by Him.
“A little difficult you think? I say it is … it is very difficult to trust and to believe without any proof whatsoever.
“It’s very difficult indeed to have Faith … but the rewards are really worth it!
“So it’s up to you … whether you want to sit in God’s wheelbarrow or not.”
As Len went to his milk van to fetch the items on Mrs Davenport’s list, Father Ignatius brought a small booklet of St Matthew’s Gospel from his office.
“Here Len …” said the priest, “have a read of this … I hope it sets you thinking. And when you finish it … I have another booklet for you if you wish!”