The great Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral is slowly being rebuilt, again.
The cathedral before the recent fire had a 112-foot-high vaulted ceiling and 228-foot-high towers. It stood (and will again) as one of the greatest examples of Gothic architecture. At the direction of Maurice de Sully, Bishop of Paris, construction began in 1163. However, construction did not stop until 1345, 182 years later! This was a significant investment of time as well as of human energy and resources. An important note is that during this period the average Parisian only lived to be about 45 years old. This means that, if you were one of the craftsmen who started with the project, neither you, nor your son, nor your grandson, nor your great grandson would live to see its completion. You would die before the work, to which you devoted your life, was finished.
Would that indicate failure on your part? Not at all. There are simply many things, many causes, and many endeavors in life that are greater than we are.
When the Scripture refers to the heroes of faith in the Old Testament, people like Noah, Abraham, and Moses, it notes that they all died before witnessing the coming of God’s Kingdom and his reign of peace and righteousness on the earth. “All these people,” the Scripture says, “died in faith without receiving what was promised” (Heb. 11:13). Each one of them picked up the torch from his predecessor, held it high in his own lifetime, and passed it to his successor at his death. And each died believing that God would somehow take his small contribution and use it to ultimately build a better world. They did not view themselves, or God, or their cause as a failure.
We also are faced with an endeavor that is greater than ourselves—a task not unlike that of the saints of old—to establish peace, justice and freedom in a war-torn land. We will certainly return to our homeland before the work in Iraq and Afghanistan is finished. And perhaps some of us may rest in peace before the ultimate goals of this war are realized, as some already have done. But we can rest assured that we have picked up the torch. And at a great cost in human life have faithfully held it high. Then, when the time comes to pass the unfinished work on to our successors, we will depart in faith, believing that God’s justice, peace and freedom will ultimately prevail—and we have been a part of it.
Dear Father in heaven, help me, with the eyes of faith, to see the ultimate victory of your righteous purpose and kingdom, and help me to be faithful in the small part I have to bring it about. Amen.