Thinking Anew – Trust and faith go hand in hand

“Just as Mary and Joseph trusted in Jesus and as did the old man Simeon, we pray that we too will continue to trust in God and that trust might give us the strength and grace to trust in one another.” Photograph: iStock

Tomorrow is the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. St Luke describes how Mary and Joseph, abiding by Jewish custom, presented the child Jesus in the Temple. In so doing Jesus was inducted or dedicated by his parents into the Jewish faith. In the Christian tradition, the feast also known as Candlemas, is celebrated 40 days after Christmas. It’s the day on which candles are blessed.

Peter Kenny, a theologian writing in Scripture in Church, points out that the meaning of tomorrow’s feast has changed over the centuries, and each change reflects aspects of the scriptures and later liturgical developments and customs. This interesting comment may well help us to appreciate how our faith-life needs to adapt to the times in which we live. St Luke recounts how Simeon was prompted by the Holy Spirit to visit the Temple. He takes Jesus into his arms and says: “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,/just as you promised;/because my eyes have seen the salvation/which you have prepared for all the nations to see,/a light to enlighten the pagans/and the glory of your people Israel”. (Nunc Dimittis/Song of Simeon, Lk 2: 29-32)

The faith of Mary and Joseph was so strong that they brought their child Jesus to the Temple to present him to God. They trusted in their community and accordingly they did what was expected of them. Likewise, the old man Simeon knew that he was to trust in this child. His faith told him this child Jesus was bringing salvation to the world.

Trust is a little like the air we breathe; we so easily take it for granted, but when it’s not there, we are in serious trouble. Right across the country lamp-posts are bristling with election posters. At this stage I’m familiar with most of the names and faces on the posters in my own constituency and the neighbouring ones. And then last week I was cycling from Kent Station in Cork to Montenotte. More election posters. This time neither the names nor the photos were familiar. They all had one thing in common for me. The faces and the words on the posters prompted me to ask myself would I, could I, should I trust that person on the poster? How can one make a judgment about a person simply from a poster? Well-nigh impossible. Maybe that’s what the politicians try to convey when they say “voter recognition”.


Irrespective of what our political beliefs are, most of us want above all else, to be able to trust what our politicians tell us. Our politicians might well take heed of Friedrich Nietzsche’s words: “I’m not upset that you lied to me. I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you”. And yet only last week the president of the German parliament and former German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said in an interview that he believes that trust is breaking down right across the political world. Schäuble has been involved in politics all his life. But it does seem trust is breaking down and not just in politics. In all aspects of our lives it seems we are now slower to believe in what we hear, to trust in those who speak. There are some absolute givens; normally we trust our parents; we trust those close to us, and whenever that trust breaks down our lives are thrown into considerable turmoil. However, public trust in institutions, the belief that though mistakes occur, and tragedies happen, those in power can be trusted to act in good faith, does not have the gold standard it once carried. A proper and healthy functioning society has to have trust as one of its fundamental cornerstones. Anything less has to be seen as an aberration.

For believers in God it is still possible and fully acceptable to say that I believe in God. Yes, it is an amazing and extraordinary statement but we as Christians believe in that. We can also say that God trusts us and in us. Just as Mary and Joseph trusted in Jesus and as did the old man Simeon, we pray that we too will continue to trust in God and that trust might give us the strength and grace to trust in one another. Trust and faith go hand in hand. Faith is essentially a trusting relationship with God.