"Why Is Believing So Hard?"
April 10, 2024, 6:00 AM

Franciscan Fractal: “Why is Believing So Hard?”

Contemplating today’s culture with the wisdom of Jesus and St. Francis.

Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Luke 24:36-39

Poor disciples!  They could not believe in a resurrected Christ. Poor us, who far too often mimic the same disbelief. Simply listen as we beg God in prayer to fix our lives. It is as though we cannot see a living, embodied Christ who dwells inside and around each of us all of the time. The reality is that no incantation or amount of prayer can draw God closer to you or me. That is the miracle of not only the resurrection, but also of the incarnation at Jesus’ birth. The announcement for both ends of Jesus’ life is that you and I have never been alone.

Why do we then feel so alone and abandoned? Could it be that you and I abandon God first? When feelings of despair arise, there is always an initial moment when we leave God – whether deliberately or inadvertently. We do so by becoming busy and distracted from our connection with God. Our work overtakes us, our children distract us with their dependence, we become absorbed in addictive processes of all sorts; all of which rob us of connection with God who is our source of life, comfort, joy, and peace.

The journey of the Christian life is to follow the WAY Jesus lived and not follow a BELIEF about Jesus the Christ. Churches have promoted correct or right belief for centuries; and yet, the church continues to shrink in numbers and has become a weak witness to God’s truth in society. Such “education” has done little to move the church toward its mission.

Jesus did not attempt to educate his disciples about his resurrection. When fear crept into an interaction with Jesus, he simply held out his wounded hands, feet, and side. It was his body that gave the clear message of resurrection. No other words were needed.

Today, Jesus the Christ still gives us his body. It is called the Holy Eucharist or Communion. Here at Christ’s table in the offering of the bread, we hear the words, “Take and eat, THIS IS MY BODY, which is given for you.” Attempting to understand this kind of love is impossible. No amount of logic or reason makes sense of a God who presents himself in the earthly elements of bread (and wine). The most remarkable part of this celebration is Christ who gives himself to us. We are required to pay nothing for the gift, and we need do nothing in return. Our thanksgiving is what is pleasing to God.

As Christ reappears in the stories of Easter, as well as in the stories of our everyday lives, let us take a deep breath, relax, and allow the God who comes in love embrace every moment of our day. We need not believe this. We only need to allow it to happen. It is faith that sustains this mystery.

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John