A few months before my priestly ordination, I was going through a pile of books in an old bookstore and came across a book titled: “Is There Anyone There?” It sounded like a question that came from the deepest part of me, given that I was a bit confused whether to make up my mind for the priesthood. I quickly paid for the book, got home and spent the rest of the day reading it. It’s a story of a young athlete who during one of his customary early morning exercises decided to take a rout he wasn’t used to, and fell into a deep hole. But halfway down the hole, he miraculously grabbed the root of a tree cutting across the pit. Holding it firmly, he thanked God that everything was not yet over. He prayed for help, and suddenly got an idea. He looked up and could see that the day was breaking and decided to shout out: “Is there anyone there?” Unbelievably, he heard a voice that said: “Yes, I’m here. I’m Jesus your Savior. I saw your predicament and have come to save you.” The man replied, “Thank you Jesus!” Then the Lord continued, “Quickly, let go of the root on which you’re holding.” The athlete thought about that for a little while and then shouts back, “Is there someone else there?” Take a moment and ask yourself whether you’ll let go of the root if you were in this man’s position.
Like you and me, the athlete in this story is a believer. He prayed for help when he was in need. We do likewise. Several of us pray only when we’re in need. Not too bad! The answer to his prayer wasn’t what he desired. He had faith but no trust. The root of the tree would momentarily hold his life until he reaches exhaustion and would be forced anyway to let go of it and fall to his utter ruin. Perhaps, he reasoned, as we often do, that if God was serious about saving him, He could have thrown down a rope or sent a crew to rescue him. He wanted God to save him on his own terms, not on the Almighty’s.
Who is this athlete? It’s us. We are the ones midway between collapse and God’s salvation. We claim we believe in God but when the going gets tough or things don’t work out our way, we ignore and marginalize God, and seek manmade solutions. We hold on to the root that can sustain us only momentarily. Hence, the cure our society presents for sadness is to get drunk and hooked on happy-pills; for marriage problems, we divorce; for prolonged sickness, we euthanize; for disagreements, we hate, destroy property and sue.
We believe—yes, but have little faith. Recognizing that our faith is weak, we should ask the Lord, like the disciples, to increase our faith. We notice that Jesus didn’t just reach into his pocket and pull out some dose of faith and hand to them. There’s no supercenter to purchase faith nor can we order some faith-pills on Amazon or an online Faith-store. Jesus’ response to the apostles, “If your faith is as tiny as the mustard seed…” tells us that we need only trust the ground on which our faith is planted; then God, the Gardener will grow us, set us free from hatred and selfishness, from gossip and slander, from addiction to drug, alcohol and pornography, and especially from the grip of the evil one.
The parable of the unprofitable servant teaches us to anchor our faith in the person Christ, His Church, and on the sacraments of salvation He has given us. We must put first at all times the will and pleasure of God. If we do, it is possible to forget ourselves and do everything—including our jobs—in service of God, without expecting any thanks and praise. As the unknown author of the book, “Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody” puts it, “we could at the same time be all of the above.” In a cantankerous world, Everybody usually thinks that Somebody will do it, but Nobody realizes that Anybody wouldn’t. It ends up that Everybody blames Somebody when Nobody does what Anybody could have done. Be your own person; be a person of faith.
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo