Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1930.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The leper prayed. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. The centurion prayed. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour. Each miracle was a reward for faith. Faith is always rewarded. The greater the test, the greater the reward. The test applied to the leper and the centurion did not overtax the faith of either. Our Lord never did that. Nor does He today. We must have the faith. We cannot escape the test. We cannot lose the reward. But here is the point. The test is always adapted to our capacity. And the reward is, always adequate for the test. Our Lord measures the test. Our Lord chooses the reward.
There are miracles in every age. There always will be. Yet the supreme test of faith is sometimes the failure to obtain the miracle we ask for. I have in mind the people who have asked for miracles and have been denied. Yet they have believed bravely and continued radiantly. There can be no doubt that such a faith is far nearer the standard set by Our Lord. It is much nearer the measure of the stature of the fulness of Our Lord. It is the faith of Saints and martyrs and confessors. The faith required of the centurion and the leper was the faith of infants in Christ. The other is the faith of full grown friends of Our Lord. It is the faith of friends who are strong enough to suffer, brave enough to endure, patient enough to continue, and worthy enough of the rewards of God. There has never been a life of a Saint recorded which does not recount the winning of a reward through suffering. And in every case the light of the reward illumines the shadows of the suffering. Who would you rather be, the leper or Father Damien? The centurion or Saint Paul? Who is the blessed among women, the widow of Nain or the Mother of Sorrows? Now there is the answer to the question for which the sorrows of the world demand an answer. The demand is insistent. The answer is true.
There are well authenticated miracles in Christendom today. There are miracles privately known which have been told to no man. The faith exhibited has been edifying. But if we would see the exhibition of faith which is heroic, we must turn to the silent sufferers of this world. There we shall find the faith of Calvary. There we shall find the intrepid companions of the Cross. There we shall see a greater miracle than the miracle of faith. We shall see the astounding miracle of love. And that is the greatest miracle in the world. For love is greater than faith and greater than hope. They who have it will have both faith and hope, but they will first have the greatest of the three. And they will continue to have it after faith has vanished into sight, and hope is emptied in delight. Here is the great miracle which is in process in every church where Christians come to pray before the altars which enthrone the Presence of Our Lord. Day after day, year after year, Christians suffer and pray and wait and grow quiet and strong and learn to rejoice in the peace that passes understanding. Who sees this sees a miracle.
One can turn from this miracle and look out on the world undismayed. One may look clear-eyed upon the suffering in the world if once one has seen the mystery of purificatory pain and triumphant love. But one must keep this mystery in mind. One must know heaven's healing if one would endure the sight of earth's sorrows.
Affectionately in Our Lord,