Sunday, April 17, 2011

Daily Lenten inspiration, April 15, 2011 (Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent)

Transcript of homily recorded on Friday, April 15, 2011

By Father Tim McGowan

I don't know about you, but sometimes I've imagined that it might have been easier to believe in Jesus had we had the experience him in the flesh like we can see each other. Would it be easier for us to believe in Jesus if he was physically in our presence right now, flesh and blood?

It seems, maybe, it might be. But today's Gospel suggests that it wasn't easy for people to believe in him even when he was right there in their midst, in the flesh. If we would have observed his miracles — his healings and his feeding of the multitudes and his even raising Lazarus from the dead — wouldn't we believe? Well, there were people who were there and saw all that and witnessed. So Jesus appeals to them in the Gospel today. He says, "If you can't believe in me, in my word, then believe in the works that I do. Believe in what you have seen with your own eyes." And it still was not easy for them to believe. And it's not easy sometimes for us to believe, either.

It's fairly easy to talk about faith, but believing in him — really believing in his way of life and what he stands for — that's never been easy. And it's especially not easy in the world in which you and I live, because our culture doesn't support the things that Jesus calls us to believe in: that money is not important; that forgiveness is important; that turning the other cheek is important; that going the second mile is important; that being generous, loving and kind is important. We don't see that getting us ahead in this world. Even going to church, it's kind of counter-cultural, really, to get up and make the effort to do that. It is not necessarily
supported by our culture. So, Jesus understood that.

In today's Gospel reading, he makes a reasonable proposal to people who are having difficulty practicing their faith. If you couldn't accept him as messiah, then Jesus pointed to the works — the things that he had been doing — and said, even though you put no faith in me, put faith in these works. In other words, do not deny what you've seen with your own eyes. Do not snuff out that little light of faith in your mind. At least believe in the works.

Now,  what have we seen with our own eyes that we can believe in? I hope you have experienced in your own lives the power of forgiveness — that you've done something you were ashamed of, that you felt terrible about it, and you experienced release, forgiveness, a second chance, a new opportunity. If you haven't had that experience, I pray that you will. It can change your hearts. That's a reasonable proposal for any of us. Use what little faith we have, how ever small it may be.

One man in the New Testament said one of the most honest things I think I've ever heard a person say. He said, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." Because all of us are a combination of belief and unbelief, and sometimes it seems that the unbelief is wining the battle. But hold om and hold out to what little faith you have, because with God, that faith can grow and mature and become a power in your life.

It is not easy to be a follower of Jesus, and we weren't promised that. It's just that it's the right thing to do. If you want a life of ease and comfort that doesn't make any difference in this world, you can have that. But if you want a life that is exciting, challenging, rewarding — a life that will include suffering and struggle, broken hearts, but at the same time give you a sense of God's presence in your life like you've never experienced before, knowing that what you're doing is right and good and in line with his holy will — then Jesus offers us that way. That way, that truth, that life.

It's not easy. It's not easy to believe in Christ and the way he calls us to live. It never has been. It wasn't easy for the people in his own day. But we can start where we are, with what faith we have, and we will be amazed at where that will take us.

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