A story in the New York Times recently told how a Catholic man confronted his parish priest about his concerns of widespread abuse in Catholic churches across the nation. When he expressed his feelings, the priest told him “You and I have no influence.”
His response is the most dangerous self-deception of all.
We hear that response often. Those who are protecting power and those who are unwilling to challenge power tell us that yes, things are bad, but there’s really nothing any of us can do about it. We’re told to pray and move along, settling for empty words and cosmetic change that neither addresses the problem nor brings about healing.
In effect, we’re told to abandon faith. Faith — the real deal — involves a determination to work steadfastly with God in the divine mission of transforming ourselves and our world.
Faith is a reminder that each of us can always do something to challenge and change an unacceptable situation in some way. Each of us is required do something or we become complicit.
We must never underestimate the power of faith. Jesus reminded his followers that even the tiniest bit of faith can move mountains. Faith is powerful stuff — if we have the courage to live it. Each of us has access to that power, even when our faith seems small and problems seem so overwhelming. That’s when we need faith the most.
We’ve seen many times how one small act can tip history. Consider Rosa Parks’ act of faith. She decided that everyone should be treated as an equally beloved child of God in all ways, so she wasn’t going to cooperate with an evil system. She wouldn’t move to the back of the bus anymore.
Her simple “no” sparked a new phase in the civil rights movement that brought about significant change in our society, though much more is still needed. She wasn’t the first to challenge the inequalities. She was advancing a legacy of countless others who had also challenged injustice with small acts of faith.
We never know when our small act will turn into a tipping point. Change never happens overnight — it’s an accumulation of many courageous moments that converge into something larger.
It's important to remember that we’re never alone when we act in faith. We’re always standing on the shoulders of those who came before us and we’re influencing those who will come after us. The moral arc is bent by many hands pulling together over time.
We also need to remember that when we act in the spirit of love and justice, we never act alone. We always have another who is acting through us, with us and in us – and that is true power.
We must not go along with the voices that say we have no power and we can’t do much by ourselves. They’re asking us to abandon faith.
Jewish wisdom reminds us that we can’t be daunted by the world’s grief, but instead we are required to respond to it by acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly. We’re not obligated to complete the work of transformation, but we’re never free to abandon it, either.
When we sense that leaders aren’t listening, we need to follow Jesus’ example and overturn the money tables in some way. Words are good, but they mean nothing if not accompanied by brave action.
Above all, we must never forget that we have the power to move the many mountains of injustice and fill in the valleys of despair. We need to remember Paul's admonition about fighting the good fight and running the entire race.
We need to keep the faith and use its power.