Develop Filial Trust
by Bishop Joseph McKinney

          Like most mothers, mine was special. I felt free to ask for anything and tell her everything. Sometimes she would say, "That's very important, I think you'd better ask your father."

          "Will you ask for me?" was often my response. Sometimes she would say, "It's better if you ask. That's something he will want to talk over with you." When dad came home from work he always went first to mom for a kiss. Then he would ask us children what kind of day we had. As I matured, I could tell by his ways whether it was a good time to make my request. Timing is important. Usually dad listened, asked some questions and then said "yes" or "I don't think we can work that out." I came to know that meant that if I can find a way, we'd do it. Over the years a great bond of trust developed between us. I learned from experience the meaning of filial trust.

          When I was ten years old I asked my dad for a bike. He was out of work at the time and mother was having a hard time with money even to buy groceries. My dad said, "Son, I wish I could give you a bike but we are short of money right now. Tell you what we can do. A bike costs about $25.00. If you want to work and earn $12.50, I'll find a way to get the other $12.50 and we'll get you a bike." I worked like a beaver and in six months I saved up the$12.50. Dad came up with the rest. I got the bike, but the great lesson was that I could trust dad. That's how God wants us to feel about him--filial trust.

          In our day Tiger Woods is a sensation in the golf world. By the age of 23 he had achieved pinnacles in the golf world that few have known. The media focuses on him as our latest superstar. He is a sensation. In the mind of Tiger Woods, his dad deserves the credit. His dad inspired him, taught him and stands by him. After a golf game, Tiger likes to talk to his dad. Did you notice anything, dad? Do you have any pointers for me? Tiger has learned to trust his dad. He has filial trust and that is a very important ingredient of his superstar status.

          One of the saddest sights in the world is to see someone who is so puffed up with pride at "their" accomplishments that they lose sight of the gift that came from God, sometimes through others. We have to cooperate and seize opportunities, but we must never forget that those opportunities are God-given. Filial trust helps us recognize this so that God can exalt us.

           Sometimes the power of fear can overwhelm us and paralyze us so that we never reach our potential. Fears of what others think can enslave us. Such fear is the weapon Satan often uses to prevent us from the life of glory that God wants for us. God's answer to such fear is, "Fear not, I am with you." There are 366 such instances in the Sacred Scriptures. It is the most repeated part of the Good News.

          Awe and wonder are the gifts of God that overcome all the fear. That awe and wonder are called "fear of the Lord." When we learn to trust God as sons and daughters, we know that God never lets us down. We will never be tempted beyond what is possible with God's help. Filial trust leads to a fearless life--"God and I are a majority!"

            As I look back over my life, I deeply regret the times when fear of what others would think ruled my life. The times when I was most happy, most alive, and experienced awe and wonder were when I overcame that fear. My first days as a priest found me very anxious about homilies. I was so afraid that I would mess up that I seldom slept well on Saturday night. Then I learned the prayer that freed me. "Jesus be great in me." When that is the focus, fear vanishes. I give it my best shot and God does the rest. Filial trust breaks the bonds of fear and gives me "Son of God" boldness.

           One day I was wondering about Mary. What was her strength, her motivation? What made her tick, so to speak. Somehow I pictured her as one who was constantly tested by God, yet never a victim of self-doubt. Her pregnancy defied explanation. Joseph wanted to "divorce her quietly" and her parents probably had the some grave doubts too about her story. Yet, she was only 15-years old when she believed that "nothing is impossible with God."

          Mary apparently was not a victim of self-doubt or a slave of fear. I can't imagine her saying, "Not me Father, get someone else." That is what I sometimes hear when I ask someone to volunteer for a ministry in the church. Instead of seizing an opportunity to serve God in others, they back away for fear of making a mistake and are ridiculed. They do not have the filial trust of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Mary, but the slavish self-doubts fear that is the work of Satan.

          Whenever that fear grips us with self-doubt about our ability to be of service in the church, we need to join Mary in asking, "How can this be?" God's answer is the same for us, "The Holy Spirit will come. Nothing is impossible for God." Then we can strive to say "Amen." "So be it, I'll give it my best for I know that God will do the rest!" Then our powerlessness vanishes in the power of the Holy Spirit and we too magnify the Lord. That's filial trust!

Bishop Joseph C. McKinney, retired Bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, is the former Chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

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