Welcome back to “The Good News Blog”
FAITH… may be the most important of all gifts we receive from our Creator… yet possibly the most FRAGILE.
Now, some might argue that Love or Hope is most important. But… if I do not believe in you, how can I love you? If I have no faith in you, how do I have hope in you?
And then there is Augustine. When you talk about faith, hope, and unconditional love… Augustine’s name should be in your top ten. Better than that, his mom, Monica should be in your top five!! This woman prayed for her son, to see the light, for 30 years! 30! Yet, his eyes remained “closed.” The quote in this title is about “him.” … the wayward son … the sinner.
I have to believe that the quote from Mark’s Good News was said often by Monica of Hippo.
Thus, we can say…
“Lord, I do believe… help my unbelief.”
Before beginning this blog post… we have an announcement to make. We have added a fourth blogger and we are thrilled to welcome her aboard. I (George) knew her as Marianne Salmon when we met in 1961. Married she is Marianne Salmon Gauss. She is through and through a “Philly Girl.” Yep, also, from the streets of Olney. She was a professor at LaSalle University for many years. A Catholic Christian who has said to me, “I find that I grapple, almost on a daily basis, with the tension between faith and reason.” I think we are all in for a treat in reading Marianne’s posts. (Read more about Marianne on our Bio page.)
Lastly, Fr. Tom will be back in June. Once he returns, we will still have three posts every other Friday, as one of us will rotate out for that given week. Please keep all of us in your prayers as we continue this journey of spreading His “Good News.” Know that all of you remain in ours.
Did you ever think about the Lord’s choices when He picked the “chosen twelve?” Here’s what we know. Four were uneducated fishermen, one was a despised tax collector, one an angry political zealot (a seditionist against Rome), and we know that Judas was the treasurer and a thief. The others… Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Thaddaeus, and James, the son of Alphaeus, we have no idea. Maybe they were unemployed or unemployable. Maybe they were receiving unemployment compensation from Rome. Maybe they were just lazy, unmarried, with no kids, hanger-ons… looking for the next gig. Could have been musicians who had a one-hit wonder before Jesus showed up. In the 60s, we had “The Dave Clark Five…” maybe these guys were called “The Thaddaeus Five.” Just a guess.
So, these “chosen twelve” follow the Christ around for three years and see “stuff” that most likely NO ONE has ever seen. I mean, come on, at a wedding, He changes water into the best wine anyone has ever tasted! After this… the blind see; the deaf hear; lepers are cleansed (10 at one time!); a hemophiliac stops bleeding; 5,000 are fed with just a few loaves of bread and some fish; the paralyzed stand up and walk; and demons are cast out of people on several occasions. I’m thinking the movie, “The Exorcist,” is looking like a family Disney flick after watching demons being cast out, into pigs, and then the pigs rushing off a cliff!
But that is not all. While in a boat during a tempest at sea, the Carpenter stills the winds of the storm with a gentle word. Another time, after Peter and his brother Andrew, along with buds, James and John spend the night at sea and catch “nothing”, he orders them to cast off and put their nets in the water. Peter, questions this. After all, he’s the expert. He is the Fisherman. Some expert!!… they catch so many fish that the nets are breaking.
And finally, people from all walks of life, see the Nazarene raise three people from the dead. Three!
And His reward for doing these wonderous acts… the Romans and hierarchy of the Jewish faith… nailed him to a tree between two thieves.”
So…my questions, and they should be yours, too… After seeing all of these miracles… the Chosen Twelve…
Where were they when Christ stood before Pilate?
Were their eyes closed for three years as they walked and stood next to the Light?
It’s easy to judge them, eh?
But what about you and me? When the going gets really tough… DO WE STILL BELIEVE?
Or… do we “cash” our faith in like Judas for “things of this world?”
Or… like the Fisherman, do we deny that we even know the Galilean from Nazareth?
And your point? Glad you asked.
Friends of mine lost their son when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Kevin (not his real name) was only in his early 20s, just beginning his adult life. One minute he was crossing a street, alive, well, and full of life. The next minute… gone. Not sure about you, but I have a tough time reconciling what happened to Kevin. He was a great guy, who, when he walked into a room, that room was illuminated. Dry wit, great laugh, and a great sense of humor. Heck, he even laughed at my lame jokes.
So… where is God in this? In the firmament pushing buttons? Why does God allow good people to die while evil lives? And some to die so young?
I asked my spiritual director years ago this question. He took me into a chapel, pointed to the altar, and said,
“Look to the Cross.”
It took me several years to finally understand “Look to the Cross.” You see, I think many of us look at Jesus as some “ethereal” figure in history… in the firmament… unreachable… untouchable. And we would be wrong. One of Yeshua’s names, given by many, is the Son of God. He is also the Son of Mary. He is a Son.
So, if God allowed his beloved Son to die at the hands of evil, such an awful death … doesn’t it make sense that anything can happen to any of us, regardless of our age or how “good” we might be? As humans, don’t we appreciate our “free will?” Then we must realize that some humans will use this free will to commit “wrong.” And that wrong or evil will cause harm to others… maybe to someone we love.
At Kevin’s funeral, I’m positive many in attendance were wondering why? How could God allow this? Everyone was inconsolable. At that very moment, all in the church, internally, may have been praying, “Lord, I do believe…Kevin is with you… Help my unbelief.”
I’m not sure how to end this post of mine. I feel at times that I’m like Peter at the Last Supper saying, “Regardless of what happens, Lord, I will die for you.” My faith… a rock.
And then I wonder, if I’m ever truly challenged with life or death for believing in the Christ, this Son of God, will I recoil and say, “I do not know the man.”
How about you?
Lord, help our unbelief.
“It is no advantage to be near the light if the eyes are closed.“ (Augustine of Hippo)
“Lord, I do believe… help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)
Ironically, for my first blog post, EVER, I am given a quote from St. Augustine of Hippo to consider. So often over the years, when I came upon a challenging concept of theology, St. Augustine was standing right in the middle of it. This quote is no different.
Obviously, those of us who have stood in the bright sunlight of a spring day, with our heads tilted up and our eyes closed, can remember how soothing it felt. At the other extreme, standing and staring at a bare lightbulb can sear your eyes. In both of these examples, closing your eyes makes sense.
My first reaction is to start an argument with Augustine. However, this quote asks us to do two things. The first is to stay open-minded. The second is to take advantage of the blessings that are ours.
In our society, light is readily available, but that was not true during Augustine’s time. Light in the Darkness is a common theme because of its universality. In the fourth century, unless you were lucky and affluent enough to have a good supply of candles or a roaring fire, the darkness of night was impenetrable. It was complete and lasted until the sun rose the next day. Darkness also had an air of danger about it.
Augustine was asking us to recognize our blessings and take full advantage of them. My first response was resistance. How often am I near a blessing, and I resist? Personal example… I live in an area where it is easy to get to church and pray or go to a library and read about theology and God. Yet, usually, I only drag myself to church once a week. The light is there, but I am sitting elsewhere with my eyes closed. How can God reach me if I never make myself available?
At Christmas, our pastor gave each household a book of daily reflections. I am trying to make sure I read one each night. But I actually have to force myself. Why? It takes mere moments to read and then think. The why is simple; the reflections are forcing me to confront the fact that I am not doing my best when it comes to my faith life.
The second quote, Mark’s, was actually much more comfortable for me as it is a daily activity for me. The tension between faith and reason seems to be ever-present within me. Did God create the universe, or was there merely a big bang? What do we really know of heaven, or of life after death?
I am so comfortable with reason, with the science of it all. Often, I rationalize that we were given brains to use them. Thus, let’s discover the truth. But the truth is that, even with science, there are millions of unanswered questions. And science, like much of life, is dependent upon who is asking the question, what their agenda is, and their own life experiences.
Belief is the suspension of doubt. I believe in God, but I still struggle. I struggle with so much of the structure of the managerial Church, and many of its writings. I must remind myself often to distinguish between God, Religion, and Faith.
I believe in God, and I need to continue to ask for help for my unbelief. I also question whether my challenging of the Church and its writings is me being inquisitive, or me resisting that which I don’t trust. Do I resist so that I don’t have to behave better?
Belief is hard. Faith is fragile. We are suspending our control. We are also saying that since we believe in God, we will do as he asks of us.
This video was chosen because just about NO ONE believes in Ralph. (If you haven’t seen this movie… SEE IT!… tears guaranteed).
Yes, Ralph is a fictional teen character… but when we were teens… did people, even our parents, truly believe in us? For Ralph, the head priest did not believe… his classmates did not believe. His best buddy ended up not believing… his “want-a-be” girlfriend wanted to believe… and the misfit priest finally believed. His mom was in a coma… but her nurse believed.
Faith is soooooo Fragile… but so Inspiring!!
Thank you, Lord, for helping our UNBELIEF!
At the time of this writing, our Jewish sisters and brothers are celebrating
the important feast of Passover, the remembrance of the Exodus, and passing over from slavery to freedom after God heard their cry; our Christian community is re-living Holy Week, remembering the heart of our faith with Jesus’ death and
Resurrection; and our Muslim friends are fasting in their solemn month of
Ramadan, one of the five pillars of their faith, to be more conscious of God.
God amazes me. From the beginning of humanity, it appears that implanted
in the spirit of each human is a yearning to be aware of and seek this God who continually wants to reveal all of the Triune being to all.
People through the centuries amaze me. So many sought, listened, heard, and responded to this God – a call and a response in faith.
Faith is amazing and mysterious. In its simplest form, it seems to be an act
of openness, wonder, awe, and humility – to this greatest Mystery of this life.
When we stand in awe, under the stars, or in the face of a baby, or the tiniest
insect, we want to say thank you, we want to believe, and we are called to faith.
Faith in an organized religion becomes more complex. We are called to
trust in the faith response of people long ago and rely on the faith communities
that passed down beliefs. Many of us had to trust our parents, who believed and
passed down the faith to us. I feel blessed to have had such faith-filled parents
and grandparents who believed and also lived out their faith in loving ways.
This amazing God, whether called Lord Adonai, Abba, or Allah (or many
other names) has blessed our world by offering His Covenant to all peoples.
There are so many positives to being part of an organized Faith Community.
We have the opportunity of a communal experience and a personal relationship.
We are gifted with the Scriptures, the Worship life, and the Moral Exhortations. These bring Meaning to Life, a way to Love and Live.
However… there are so many negatives to being part of an organized Faith, as we certainly know. What a history of violence, wars, persecutions, genocides, and, scandals that have come from and toward organized religions. So many temptations to think we have all the answers about this God, or become self-righteous, or
judgmental to others, or struggle to think we can be forgiven. Many have used it
in political ways. Many have lost their faith or turned from God because of it.
Again, St. Paul leads us and goes to the heart of the matter. “If I have all
faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing… faith, hope, and love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians
13). Faith in God, with or without an organized religion, is a gift and is important, but in the end, God seems to desire love to unite us.
Those of us who are Christian are blessed to believe in this Jesus who
presented the love of the Father; the Father’s deep Mercy; the love toward
outcasts, or hated neighbors (the Samaritans), or hated enemies (the Romans).
Jesus’ last words –“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” shows
the great love and mercy of this God, who saves and does not condemn.
The father of the paralyzed boy, who obviously loved his son in Mark’s Good News, courageously stated,
“Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief.”
Then we have Simon Peter, the great fisherman, who at the Last Supper said he would “die” for Christ… but, in his humanness and weakness, denied he ever knew Jesus. Yet, after the Resurrection, in John’s Good News, Peter was brought to the overriding response of love. when he felt
the forgiveness of Jesus and responded to the Risen Jesus three times,
“Lord, I love you; you know that I love you.”
And as I watched a documentary about Mother Teresa of Calcutta, which brought me to tears.
I was inspired by her faith, but also deeply
touched by the way she lived out her faith – in loving each person that she met
and seeing God in each person.
Our world appears so divided and filled with hate at times. We need to
be open to a faith that God loves and cares for all of us.
I believe and yet I struggle to believe.
I pray for the gift. And above all, I pray to feel that God cares
for me and all people; God does love us. And God calls us to love in turn.
And now for a REAL person… Eric Liddell, a Brit who ran in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. He refused to run on the Sabbath. The head of the British Olympic Committee wanted to send him home. Not many people, not even his teammates, believed in him.
But his “faith” came from within… when he crossed the finish line… he saw the light… his eyes were open.
And… God made him fast!
We’ll see you in two weeks!