Tag Archives: belief

4th Sunday of Lent B: Unbelief and Skepticism

Audio version below:

Today there’s a great deal of unbelief and skepticism about God and Jesus Christ in our society. I’m watching the CNN series on Jesus on Sunday nights during Lent called “Finding Jesus.” If the remaining segments are like the two I’ve seen so far, I think you will have to find Jesus elsewhere than on CNN. You may end up wondering whether you can find him at all or– just as unfortunate– wondering whether finding him is worthwhile.

Last Sunday’s segment was about John the Baptist. To tell you the truth, as they dramatized John’s life, I found him peculiar and unstable. I don’t think I would follow him and I certainly wouldn’t want him to dunk me into a river of water. The segment suggested that John was the teacher of Jesus, his mentor. I’m wondering what the next episodes are going to be like. Is Jesus going to be portrayed like John? If he is, I wouldn’t want to follow him either.

The mainstream media by nature is skeptical, so it keeps asking questions like: Did Jesus really exist? What did he look like? What are the facts about his birth, his life and his death? Are other gospels out there that contradict the four we know? Have the archeologists found out anything more about him? Was he married? Is there anything new about him?

Nothing wrong with most of those questions except that questions alone wont get you the truth. You can  get buried under facts. You can try to know too many facts. Knowing the facts isn’t necessary to start a friendship, get married, to begin a business, to make a medical decision, or to believe.

But we shouldn’t be surprised– there’s always been unbelief and skepticism. Our first reading this Sunday from the Old Testament tells us that:. “In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity…Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them”… “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets.” Their unbelief led to destruction and exile. (2 Chronicles, 36,14-16) Skepticism and unbelief are nothing new.

In the New Testament passage from John, Nicodemus meets Jesus, but he only comes at night. He’s someone who’s reluctant to believe. He is a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Jews at the time of Jesus. He’s interested in what Jesus has to say but he’s hesitant, perhaps because he’s in the minority, so it’s not the popular thing to do. Or perhaps he can’t understand the dimensions of what Jesus reveals. Jesus speaks of a greater life, a new birth, and Nicodemus can only grasp life as he sees it and lives it.

Some today are reluctant to believe for the same reasons, so they keep asking questions, or give up seeking altogether. You might be in the minority if you believe, for example. You wont be popular with everybody if you believe. You may be confused or uncertain or wondering about the faith you are asked to hold onto.

The interesting thing is the God doesn’t give up on the unbeliever or those like Nicodemus who are uncertain or confused or questioning. God meets you in the night. So come to God with the faith you have. Why doesn’t God give up on us? Listen again to our reading from John’s gospel.

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.

God so loved the world. And the great sign of God’s love is the death of Jesus on the Cross. What greater sign of love could God give?

Now and at the Hour of our Death

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In the Hail Mary we ask Mary to pray for us sinners, “now and at the hour of our death.” These are the two most important moments in life. We have the past and the future, for sure, but they’re far less important than now and the hour of our death.

“Now” is the time we live in, the present moment. Whether it’s a time of joy or sorrow, a time of satisfaction or disappointment, a time of sickness or health, it’s the time we have to love, to give, to endure, to act, to live.

“The hour of death” is God’s time, when God brings us from this life to the next. It may be instantaneous or prolonged, but it’s the time when God who gave us life takes this life away.

Both of those moments benefit from faith. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was a believer who trusted in the power and presence of God through these same moments of life. They’re challenging moments.

After the angel left Mary in Nazareth, no other angel came; she walked by faith from the Child’s birth to the death and resurrection of her Son. As we face the mysteries of life, we ask her in our weakness to be with us as a believer and a mother, who knows the goodness and power of God as it is revealed in Jesus Christ her Son.

“Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

The Blind Believe

Jesus sorrowing

Rejected by your own,
By those who know so much
yet know so little.

This week in Jerusalem,
the city that knows so much
yet knows so little,
you walk its streets where a blind man begs
and give him sight that he never had before,
but they don’t believe
you’re God’s Son,
his only Son, equal to him.

“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
the blind man said with new sight.
“You have seen him,
the one speaking with you is he,”
you said to the man with new sight.

He worshiped you,
“I do believe, Lord.”

Give us his sight.

art: Duk Soon Fwang

Belief Comes From His Wounds

Reading the letters of St. Paul of the Cross you notice how often he wishes the one to whom he’s writing to be placed in the “wounds of Christ” or the “holy Side of Jesus” or his “Sacred Heart.”.  “I am in a hurry and leave you in the holy Side of Jesus, where I ask rich blessings for you.”

Expressions like these seem to be pious phrases until we read the story of Thomas from John’s gospel. Jesus shows the doubting disciple the wounds in his hands and side, and Thomas believes.

Belief is not something we arrive at by our own powers of reason or will. Faith is a gift that God gives through Jesus Christ.

The Man Who Came By Night

John 3, 14-21 4th Sunday of Lent

After Jesus cleanses the temple and says prophetically he himself is its replacement, Nicodemus comes to see him by night. He’s a Pharisee, an important person in Jerusalem, probably connected with the temple worship, and no doubt worried what people would think if they saw him with Jesus by day. In fact, other Jewish leaders in the city were thinking of putting him to death.

But despite coming to Jesus in the darkness, Nicodemus is not a slave of the dark. He’s looking for light. Maybe he’s not the bravest person in the world, but he’s an honest questioner, searching for the truth. Jesus does not point out to him his miracles, his healings, the crowds he draws, to establish his credentials. It’s not success stories he tells Nicodemus. It’s a story of a tragedy turned into victory.

Nicodemus would have recognized the story Jesus tells–a story from the epic desert journey of the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land when they fell into unbelief and doubt and were bitten by snakes causing many of them to die.

Then, a serpent was lifted up on a staff, and they were healed at the sight. It will not be Jesus’ successes that bring Nicodemus to believe in him. He would soon see Jesus lifted up on a cross and, by God’s grace, he came to believe. God’s mercy and love were there before him, healing all who needed forgiveness.

The Pharisee, a leader in Israel, doesn’t hide in the dark any more; along with Joseph of Arimithea, another Jewish official drawn to Jesus, Nicodemus boldly goes to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body and they bury it in a  tomb nearby. The mystery of the Cross brought Nicodemus to believe.

We go to you through questions, Lord, sometimes with our doubts. Like Nicodemus we often go to you in the night, but you do not mind receiving us then. For with you “the night itself is like the day.”

As long as we do not love the darkness, you listen and reach out. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but might have eternal life.”

Teach us wisdom through your cross.