A while ago I watched the movie Queen of Katwe. It is a Disney movie produced in 2016. It is the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a 10 year old girl who lives in the slums of Katwe near Kampala in Uganda. The family’s life is a constant struggle with poverty. The family is so poor that none of the children go to school. One day, by the guidance of divine providence, Phiona comes in contact with people playing Chess. She gets interested and, under the guidance of Mr. Katende, God’s angel in Phiona’s life, Phiona begins to play Chess and exhibits extraordinary intelligence that even confounds her coach. Her mastery of the logic of chess awakens in her the dream of one day becoming a grandmaster of chess in the world. Believing in the encouraging words of Mr. Katende, her play of chess takes her outside Uganda, even to Russia to meet with the world champions, amidst her mother’s fluctuating faith in God. There in Russia, she fails at her first attempt and runs into a deep crisis of self-doubt. She recalls that all she knows how to do is sell corn in the slums of Katwe, and pleads with her coach to take her back to the life she is used to. The coach reminds her of a timeless truth that we all should remember every time we encounter the unknown: where you are used to may not be where you belong! Then, he goes on to tell Phiona that she belongs to the Chess world; she has the ability to be a blessing to her family, to Katwe, even to Uganda! Well, holding firmly onto the words of her coach, Phiona wins the Woman Candidate Master at the age of 15 after participating in World Chess Olympiad. She comes home with a trophy and makes herself, her family and Uganda proud. Through her hard work and mastery of chess, she is able to bless her family and Uganda. She takes her Mother and siblings away from the slum and builds a beautiful house for them. As of today, Phiona Mutesi is training hard to become one day a world grandmaster in Chess. She has conquered her fears and thrusts herself onto the unknown with faith in God and in her God-given talents!
I think of Abraham, our Father in faith, called from his fatherland to a land that he did not know. There was no guarantee that such a land ever existed, except in the faith he had in the God who called him. He stepped out with faith into that thick cloud of the unknown, believing the voice of God that he heard in the silence of his heart. Like Phiona, and many of us, he encountered many periods of crises and self-doubt. But there was no other way to enter into the unknown except with faith. Without faith, the unknown, like a wild desert, can destroy the remaining iota of confidence and vision for a better tomorrow.
In the same way, Jesus makes his disciples see in a vision where his sufferings, pain and agony would end up – at the glorification of resurrection. It was so fascinating that Peter did not want to leave the place again.
But, the journey of faith has no shortcut!
On this second Sunday of Lent, it is necessary for each of us to begin to see the truth that EVERYTHING turns around for our good – all the pains, suffering, abandonment, betrayals, loss of jobs, doubts, sickness – everything indeed, is turning around for our good. That good is the unknown which we do not see now with our physical eyes, but we can see it with the eyes of faith. Only if we can see in faith, like Abraham and Phiona, that EVERYTHING turns around for our good! I pray for this grace for each of us. Amen