Recently, I met with two engineers to discuss the possibility of air conditioning the church. In the process of that meeting, I asked whether or not the system that they were proposing would cost more to run than a different system. One of the engineers said that, while it might be hard for me to imagine, it would be less expensive. I agreed: it was hard for me to imagine that larger machinery would take up less electricity to run. He started to explain, “it has to do with their veers…” and at that I stopped him. See, I know my limits and, quite frankly I believed him. I knew that while I might be able to learn a few more tid bits, it wasn’t worth my investment of brain power: I wouldn’t comprehend half of the stuff he was saying and, in fact, I already trusted the information to be true.
Maybe another illustration of the same principle: I do not understand all of the issues involved in proving how gravity works, but I believe it does actually work. I’m willing to put faith in it without having a deeper understanding of its reality.
With those two illustrations now mentioned, I do not believe that the same can be said about issues of faith today. In today’s way of thinking, in today’s world, while people believe in the expertise of engineers and the theory of gravity—even without having firsthand knowledge or proof—they do not approach faith the same way. Very often, I have found that when some people pose questions about faith, they are trying to disprove its importance, downplay its relevance and dismiss its existence as foolhardy.
Today, while people in the world pursue power, prestige, pleasure and the like, without significant regard for the needs of anyone but themselves, they often then don’t find that God even really matters, that faith won’t impact them at all, and that skepticism is the most appropriate response to ‘not knowing’.
But the fact that we’re here, says something different about you and me. The fact that we’re engaged in our “Catholicism series” this year or starting our new Scripture Study during this Year of Faith; we believe that God does exist, that God has always existed and interacted with His creation and His creatures…and that a relationship with Him—borne of faith—is essential to us. Beyond that, I would propose that even in the midst of faith, however, there is still great value in knowing how and why God exists around us in the life of faith. Sure, we may not grow in our understanding of God Himself, but exploring the movements of God over time and throughout salvation history could actually be the ticket for us to appreciate more and more the gift of faith within this world; a world that despises things unseen and rejects things unfelt.
- For example, our first reading—written thousands of years before Christ—proclaims one who will come and free those bound up: “be strong, fear not! Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.” The gospel reports such a One who has come with the fulfillment of God’s promise. God is not distant, aloof, uncaring: no, God comes to His people to set them free.
- For example, the word “Ephphatha” in our Gospel is just a word, but that particular Aramaic word was understood to have within its very proclamation a power to bring about what it promised once it was uttered. Isn’t this not only reminiscent of the promise in our first reading, but also of the power of words that we use throughout every liturgy? They aren’t everyday words by any means and they aren’t interchangeable when we hear the Eucharistic prayer or institution narrative. No, we use particular, precise, proscribed words that actually bring about what they promise. It is truly and really Christ’s Body & Blood on the altar, which we then receive and become. So, our ritual isn’t haphazard, but it’s connected to millennia of history and generations…and its meaning grows in us, even though our understanding of it might not.
In the end, our knowledge of the words of Isaiah in the first reading or of “Ephphatha”, the word of Jesus in the gospel don’t help our understanding of how ears or lips were opened, but they do help in another way: they point to a plan being laid out and then fulfilled…all by God, who creates, who cares for us, and who dwells among us, to give us His own life; a life bursting with freedom, with openness, with hope…and a lively faith placed in Him as we move about in our everyday. May this blessing of faith for each one of us be renewed this week, that we might be instruments who connect our world back to God, through Jesus Christ.