On Moving Mountains

(CNS photo/Ricardo Moraes, Reuters) (Nov. 16, 2012)

Last week I spoke with a mother who is struggling to pay tuition. She wanted to keep her three children in Catholic school, but she wasn't sure how she and her husband would afford it. Even with generous tuition assistance, it would shatter the family budget. It was one of those stark moments where desires collide with facts. On the criteria of the world, it wasn't going to work. 

In these conversations, I try to offer hope and optimism even while knowing that the school and I cannot guarantee any outcomes. As we neared the end of our conversation, I spoke the last thing that came to mind: "This payment is a mountain for you and your family. Let's pray to move a mountain."


Almost as soon as I said it, I doubted its usefulness. In the face of her disappointment, I felt I had offered a terrible cliche, a platitude of the worst sort. But of course it wasn't. Jesus himself tells the apostles: "For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you" (Mt 17:20). At another time, He says, "Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will" (Mark 11:23-24).

As I thought about my discomfort with what I had said and compared it to the words of Jesus, I relearned something I easily forget. Jesus urges us to be bold, even foolish in our requests. He encourages us to pray audaciously. His metaphors leave no room for doubt: when we work with Him, we get to hope for the impossible. To be sure, we must pray from and within total faith in God, and we must ask with the right motives (cf James 4:3). But those qualifications don't diminish the force of Jesus' command. Christ doesn't want a timid faith. He wants confidence in the Kingdom of God.  

I don't know how tuition assistance plays out in the court of heaven; I'm sure there's more than one scripture scholar who would tell me that such requests are not what Jesus had in mind. But I do know that for the mother I met with, the financial hurdles don't seem like obstacles, they seem like mountains. For her and her family, therefore, I will pray that God moves some earth.

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Bruce Snowden
5 years ago
On Moving Mountains,” I think Jesus was using hyperboli as he sometimes did, exaggerating to make a point, in this case to “have Faith” making nothing impossible. But the efficacy of Faith relies on the way God sees things, not simply in fulfillment of a human want, even a need, - “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Thus, relying on the translation at hand, it’s also interesting to note that Jesus uses the word “it” relative to Faith’s power, which hyperbolically allows one to cast the mountain (obstacle) “into the sea and IT will be done.” The word “it” has many definitions one of them “to represent some idea or condition.” When it comes to being able to cast a mountain or whatever into the sea, I suggest that the “idea” or “condition” we’re talking about, has to be part of God’s reality, representing some idea or condition of his, not simply a part of human understanding, or perception. This makes it imperative that people (Believers) through Belief form a cooperative association, an understanding, an acceptance, of and with the Word of God, fulfilling need in accord with that Word. Yes, I really believe that Jesus in the texts in hand was speaking hyperbolically, the focus being on the supremacy of Faith . If we have Faith the size of a mustard seed nothing will be impossible, even as big an obstacle as a mountain – ants build hills that must look to ants like mountains! What seems like an insurmountable obstacle to us, looks like an ant hill to God! But to make Faith “work” it has to be aligned to the Will of God. I think that’s the message. That mother grievously in need of financial help so as to keep her children in a Catholic School and finding no help even from pastor/principal makes me wonder if she is a victim of THEIR lack of Faith in God, pastor/principal should be first in line “moving that mountain” and “casting it into the sea” as Jesus promised. Spiritual myopia, distorts Faith. Oh, I understand very well the dilemma of that woman, suffering perhaps from someone’s ”distortion of Faith” far too common. At least that’s the way it seems to me.


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