by Father Peter Iorio
The first African-American Protestant bishop to earn a Ph.D. (sociology) was Methodist Bishop Willis King (1886-1976). After his graduation, King says he spent some time at home with his parents. While there, he decided to go to the bank and borrow money to buy his first car. His father said he would go with his son to cosign the loan, but the young King declined his father’s offer saying he could take care of it himself. After all, he now had a degree.
The loan officer said, “Tell me, what do you have for collateral? If you’re going to get $500 from this bank, you’ve got to have something of equal value.” King proudly announced he had a degree. The loan officer said to King that he was sorry but a college degree was worthless as collateral. The young King was embarrassed, and as he turned to leave, there stood his father who announced he had come to cosign the note. King said, “Dad, you can’t even write. All you can do is make an ‘X’.”
Overhearing this the loan officer said, “It may be true that your dad can’t write and all he can do is make an ‘X.’, but it’s that ‘X’ that got the loan for you get into school. It’s that ‘X’ that got the loan to get you out of school. And if you are going to get a loan from this bank to buy a car, it’s that same ‘X’ that’s going to get the loan for you.”
Humbly, the younger King accepted his father’s offer to cosign. We shall return to that in a moment.
In the first reading, Moses was about to die. The Chosen People were terrified because they were about to lose the person who had been successfully leading them through the wilderness toward the Promised Land. They were also going to lose a leader whom they trusted and a prophet who had been keeping them informed of God’s will. The assurance from Moses is that God would send another prophet like Moses. Trust is a needed virtue in our country today, so I highlight this virtue.
Trust is a basic human virtue that is necessary for good relationships, not just leaders and followers, but also in the family, at school and at work. One definition of trust as a verb is to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone. With trust many wonderful things follow. Without trust, chaos can reign. The story of the loan officer and the illiterate father is one example. The bank officer had developed a relationship of trust with the father over time. The father had proven his trust in the past and thus was worthy of being trusted again with another loan.
Trust may be the most important factor in successful relationships. A person trusts another when they feel that they can be vulnerable and know that everything will be alright. As Christians we are called to be trustworthy. Building trust requires making a commitment to trustworthy behavior. Remember that Moses received the 10 Commandments with most saying THOU SHALL NOT.
To highlight the development of the virtue of trust in you and me and among us, I give you qualities or commandments in the affirmative.
THOU SHALL BE Honest. Speak the truth and do what you say you will do. Even if it is a small thing, canceling or failing to follow through will create hairline fractures in your trustworthiness.
THOU SHALL BE Reliable: Trust requires that people believe you will be dependable in the long-term, over time. Thus, when you make someone a promise, you must keep it.
THOU SHALL BE Humble: We are human and we all make mistakes. When you make a mistake, humbly tell the truth. Your trustworthiness goes down the tubes when you make excuses or blame others.
THOU SHALL BE a person of integrity: Keep confidential those things that are told to you that are supposed to be kept confidential. As a person of integrity, also try to keep your feelings under control. If you learn to manage your emotions, the people in your life will feel that they can predict how you will act. They will view you as emotionally reliable, further deepening trust.
Our Bishop Stika’s motto is “Jesus, I trust in you.” Today in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has just called His first disciples from their work as fishermen and now He begins his public ministry. He teaches with authority AND He also drives away an unclean spirit. He is building trust with the people who listen to Him and interact with Him. Over the period of three years of Jesus’ public ministry, the disciples grow in an intimate trusting relationship with Him whom they will call LORD. He will not let them down. It is important to remember that Mark’s Gospel has often been described as a passion narrative with an extended introduction. This is not an exaggeration. The entire Gospel is oriented toward the passion and resurrection of Jesus. In this year of Mark, it is good to recall this trajectory to help shape our proclamation of the passion and resurrection. It is not easy to continue to trust when the going gets rough, when we have “crosses” in our lives, but with faith and perseverance, we can always pray and say: Jesus, I trust in you because you are the fulfilment of the Father’s promise. You are always faithful and you love me without conditions and I know that I can be totally vulnerable with You. Jesus, when I get down, I trust you to lift me up and carry me.