There once was an acrobat who liked to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
Whenever he did, a huge crowd would gather to watch. “Do you believe that I can do this?” he would ask. “Yes!” the crowd would reply. Sure enough, the man would walk to one side of the falls and back again. Then he would ask, “Do you believe that I can push a wheelbarrow across the falls?” “Yes!” they would cry—and so he did. Next, “Do you believe that I can put a man in that wheelbarrow and push him safely across the tightrope?” Again, the crowd would say, “Yes!” “Great. So who will be the first to get in and try it?” And with that, the crowd would go silent.
Millions of Catholics use the word faith every day. It’s a natural part of our vocabulary. But we need to ask: Is my application of faith, my disposition of faith, in line with the words of the prophet Habakkuk, who said, “The just man, because of his faith, shall live” (Habakkuk 2:4)? Is it in line with St. Paul, who said, “Insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20)? Is it in line with Jesus’ invitation to get in his wheelbarrow and take a ride across the falls?
Scripture tells about a number of people who applied their faith. For example, Jesus told a Canaanite woman, “Great is your faith!” (Matthew 15:28). At another time, he told a centurion, “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (Matthew 8:10). This centurion was a Roman soldier, and the Canaanite woman was a Gentile. Neither of them was expected to believe much, yet both believed in Jesus.
So if Jesus were to come into your parish or your home, would he say, “Your faith is great,” or would he say, “I have found stronger faith in others—people whose disposition toward me should be weaker than yours”?
Faith involves a growing recognition of who Jesus is. This is what set apart the centurion and the Canaanite woman. They knew Jesus was special, and no one could dissuade them. Faith also involves taking Jesus at his word and being ready to receive the new life that he offers us by the power of his Spirit.
We can have this disposition of faith, too. It’s focused on the invitation to embrace the faith that Jesus has given us and experiencing what it means to have Christ dwell in our hearts— again, through faith (Ephesians 3:12,17).
So today, try to get into the wheelbarrow. Tell Jesus, “I put my hope in you. I believe in you.” Trust him to guide you through the perils of life. He won’t let you down. He won’t let you fall into the raging waters below. He has already made it across—long ago at Calvary—so he knows the way. All we have to do is embrace what he has done for us, and our faith will flourish.
Joe Difato is the former publisher of The Word Among Us magazine.