Belief Strains, …yet Faith Can Still Grow
Today’s second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds us that our life is a tug-of-war between this physical life and the spiritual life sustained by God’s Spirit. And as we’ve traveled through these first five weeks of Lent, we might need to pause for a moment to reflect on how we’ve been moving.
During our first week, we saw the temptations of Jesus and wondered whether or not we would be able to overcome them ourselves. Then, we caught a glimpse of the glory of the Lord as He was transfigured on Mt. Tabor. Surely, that whet our appetite to cling to Him and stay close…hoping that our nearness would bring us to future glory as well. Then, with the woman of Samaria, we came to know Christ as the font of living water, who is able to slake any hunger or thirst or longing we might have. Last week, we saw—with the new sight of the blind man—that Jesus is a prophet, a healer, …He is one in whom we can place our faith. And this week, we witness the drama unfolding on life’s stage: there is illness, and fear; uncertainty, and death; there is then One with power over life and over death. Yes, lots to reflect on during this season of Lent. So, how have we been moving within ourselves during this season?
If you might not want to answer, consider a few other guides that we hear from this weekend: Martha and Thomas. Clearly a very close, intimate friend of Jesus, Martha is able to state, with confidence, that Jesus is the Lord over life…“Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died”. And yet isn’t her confidence more intellectual than it is rooted in authentic belief? Sure, she knows well the prophecy told by Ezekiel from today’s first reading, yet she doesn’t believe it can hold true for her brother Lazarus. Within just a few moments, she’s protesting opening Lazarus’ grave because of the four days lapsed. She’s still clinging to the rabbinic tradition that after three days, death has absolutely won and there is no going back to life. Here the Lord responds with His greatest act and Lazarus is raised from the tomb and set free. Martha knows Jesus’ power, yet her belief strains when confronted with suffering and death in this physical world. She wonders whether the Lord Jesus, is truly “Lord of all”.
Or, what of Thomas? A close disciple of the Lord, Thomas has an inkling that if they go to Bethany—near Jerusalem—surely the struggle with authorities will end terribly and Jesus will suffer. And while Thomas encourages the brothers, “let us also go to die with him”, only a few days later, Thomas is the one who cannot and will not believe that Christ has risen from the dead. Only after being presented with concrete evidence is Thomas able to profess “my Lord and my God!” Even Thomas has much growing to accomplish in order to come to an authentic, living faith.
So, how have you been moving within yourself during this season of repentance, death and new life? Not to worry: just as Martha came to believe; just as Thomas came to doubt no more; we, too, are on a journey of growth in holiness. Let’s be patient with ourselves, yet always keeping our hands to the plow. In these next, and last, weeks of Lent, may our journey be fruitful and our authentic faith be enlivened.
God love you, and those you love.