In all gospel narratives, it was always the confession of faith, both by Jews and non-Jews that amazes Jesus: “Have sight; your faith has saved you.“ On why others exhibited faith profound enough to move Jesus, and others were simply sidelined into doubt or the refusal to believe often ushers me to the edge of mystery which is that faith is a gift. Faith as an offer to believe and a human response to the offer is a gift.
Naturally, human beings would lock horn with this truth; the Roman Catholic Church used to ruggedly lock horn with the Protestant Church who made faith’s gratuity their mantra. People in the academe tend to trade off faith with intellectual freedom, as if real faith and institutional conditioning are synonymous. Faith is a thorny shrub to the human will and intellect, seems an anathema to human striving. It seems so.
Faith may be a total gift. But the gospel narratives are also instructive of its developmental possibilities, like a mustard seed turning into a shrub (not a tree which is contrary to botanical common sense). Faith can grow, the gospels assure me. Let me outline a story of faith that is turning into a beautiful shrub.
Wow! It’s been 20 years ago when we turned the convent into a cave of creativity, like primitive human beings leaving animal drawings on a cave wall. Typical of rebellious, growing lads, our wildness was as ancient as our animal-hunting forbears, and the mess we dispersed around could get detestable to our Dutch missionary mentors. There seems to be 2 sides of the story-making, of our teenage meaning-making. There was that conventual, cavelike mood that felt dark and suffocating – the cultural divide, the psychological distance from family, the personal differences, the religious demands that were imposing to our level of maturity, and perhaps the communal pressure as “public servants” assisting in as many as 6 masses on Sundays. Some dark sections, like undeciphered codes on cave walls, are too confidential to publicly confess. The other side of the story-making was how, by some stroke of grace, the darkness of the cavern had become our creative home, the cocoon of our curious mind, of our starving spirit, of our feeble, growing faith. From our missionary mentor, I learned the art of multitasking in the restroom – reading while holding my breath atop the toilet bowl. Time will come when I could simultaneously blog in the toilet, and people read blogs between halted breaths. Restroom habits have its evolution, too. Let’s get back to the faith story, unless you need a reading break to head somewhere.
I don’t like to write long for some practical reading plus writing reasons. So let me just highlight a section of the cave of creativity, otherwise known as the convent, where one particular soul was unknowingly seduced to a beautiful form of faith, who succumbed to temptations to break convent decorum.
On regular Monday nights, when our mentor was away for their community gathering, we summoned our friends who would flock to the convent basement-cum-garage like nocturnal animals gaping out of their holes then ambled with eyes watchful for any stronger predator. We held our own gathering with an afterthought guilt induced by Tanduay and the shoddily scrubbed convent floor. One by one we gathered them – the bass and snare drums, the bass, rhythm, and lead guitars, the stick and the pedal and the grilled pidjanga. One, two, three, four – he took off, slightly banging his head to the lead screech of Hotel California. Soldier of Fortune was next in the repertoire. Our neighbors knew it – how we drowned the convent silence with a seeming pandemonium and our senses with Tanduay or Valentino. And they were a bunch of good reporters we loved to hate. Anyhow, Hotel California was no easy piece but he was the virtuoso, his fingers sharp as the Eagles’ on the lead guitar. Now, he is a virtuoso to me in faith music, a recording artist-missionary. Gentleladies and caringmen, still on the “lead guitar” – Fr. Ricky Bermudez, MSC. I have no argument – those blaring convent, cavelike nights must have helped his faith.