Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 5, 2004
Believe in God even when he is silent
Light One Candle
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
After all the weeks of a solemn Lent, what a wonderful relief to embrace the joy of the paschal season. We think of Lent, and certainly Holy Week, as a time of prayer and penance, but it occurs to me that we sometimes ignore the range and depth of emotions revealed in the Gospel stories of the Passion of Jesus.
Consider the wild enthusiasm of the crowds who cheered Jesus as they welcomed him triumphantly into Jerusalem. Consider the depths of agony he endured in the garden on the Mount of Olives. He anticipated the betrayal of Judas, his friend, and the denial of Peter, the rock of his Church. Consider not only the brutal physical pain of the passion that Jesus faced, but also the fear and despair of his disciples.
And their doubt. Oh, their doubt. After all that Jesus' followers had heard about God's loving mercy, after all the miracles they had seen, how could their hopes end in the most ignominious death the Roman Empire could impose? Surely, the faith of the disciples was as shaken as, I think, mine would have been.
But then came Sunday morning. The faithful women went to the tomb to finish anointing Jesus - and it was empty. What happened next not only shook them but also changed our world forever. "Suddenly two men in dazzling robes stood beside them . . . (and) said to them, 'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen'" (Luke 24:4-5).
And the women believed it. But not everyone would accept it when they heard the news. "Now it was Mary Magdalene . . . and the other women . . . who told this to the Apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them" (Luke 24:10-11).
Can't you just imagine these guys thinking, "Poor women. They're just imagining things. Of course, we'd love to believe them, but it can't be true!" So God, as usual, came to the rescue. "Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you.' after he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord" (John 20:19-20).
Then came the incident that has been synonymous with doubt ever since: "But Thomas . . . was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.'
"A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. . . . Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you.' Then he said to Thomas, '. . . Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.' Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe" (John 20:24-29).
Many people have doubts at different times. And that uncertainty can be frightening. Certainly, God wants us to believe, just as he wants us to hope and to love. But he understands us better than we do ourselves. After all, God created us with reason and free will. He expects us to use our minds as well as our hearts. Never be afraid to think about God.
There's a quote that's said to be cut into the walls of a Nazi concentration camp: "I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I feel it not. I believe in God even when he is silent."
Peace be with you!
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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