This evening as I caught the 45th stink bug and deposited it outside (there are consequences for crushing stink bugs), I thought of the many little obstacles to holiness that we can encounter. Stink bugs are an invasive species which has made itself at home in the Pacific Northwest. They love warm weather and have been appearing constantly, as if by spontaneous generation, in our house as the outside weather has gotten colder. In their persistence, they remind me of the minor lapses, irritations and temptations that beset us all, flying around our ears or crawling on our curtains.
All These Died in Faith
What does this have to do with today’s readings? Only that these small incursions are occasions for holiness, as we resist them or incorporate them into our lives. The key to it all is faith. In the letter to the Hebrews, we hear, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out not knowing where he was to go.”
It takes faith to accept that this particular anxiety, that unexpected illness can be offered back to God for oneself or someone else. It requires faith to set aside the unkindness of others to focus on what is important or to believe that an apparent slight or act of disregard is not what it first seemed to be. Faith, to recall that the deaths of friends and loved ones are actually the beginning of eternal life for them and the start of a new relationship for us. It requires faith to be at peace with the reality that what I have worked for, what I hoped for, may not come to pass in my lifetime but will someday. “All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar…”
Why Are You Terrified?
In the reading from St. Mark, the disciples attribute Jesus’ sleeping through the storm to lack of concern. He, in turn, rebukes them for their lack of faith. We, too, looking at the world around us, can make the same mistake. We can miss the signs of God’s presence, that he is bringing good out of what others meant for evil. And that brings us back to the stink bugs, who remind us of this reality and so become our invasive little friends.