Last Sunday’s gospel was interesting to me in many ways. It tells the familiar story about a Prophet not being without honor except in His native place. The gospel passage started by saying He left that place and came to His home town. So clearly something important had preceded this homecoming.
The passages that precede this gospel included several significant miracles. Jesus healed the Gerasene demoniac, raised the little girl to life, and healed the woman with the hemorrhage. An impressive list of feats. So, He gets back to His hometown and begins teaching…and they were astounded at His wisdom and His deeds of power done by His hand. But then their preconceived notions get in the way. Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Ok, it was probably a bit mystifying to have had a prophet in your midst and not know it all those years. We can give them that. But what comes next is their downfall—pride. They took offense at Him. Hmmm. He performed significant miracles, impressed them with His wisdom and yet they refused to accept any of it—and were even offended by Him. Sadly, the story goes on, that Jesus could do no deeds of power there…and He was amazed at their lack of faith.
A Lack of Faith
But isn’t that our story too? Evidence of God’s miracles are all around us—in creation, in the miracle of life, the intricacies of the human body, the seasons, the sea and the mountains. His wisdom is indisputable—something as simple as doing to others what we would like them to do to us as the way to peace. And yet, we too have an amazing lack of faith.
But what does that mean, exactly? Clearly faith is needed for Jesus to perform miracles. It’s a requirement—which seems to indicate that our faith is what actually facilitates Jesus’ action. It seems mysterious on the face of it. But perhaps there is more to it than that.
Let’s go back to the beginning—to the original sin and fall of man in the Garden of Eden. God’s goodness abounded all around Adam and Eve. They wanted for nothing and all was at peace and in harmony. And yet, they fell. They took the bait of the serpent and doubted God’s goodness. The catechism says of original sin that man let his trust in His creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command….All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in His goodness. (CCC397)
So, what can we learn from all of this? How do we increase our faith? First, I think we need to meditate on God’s goodness. Take time to notice His order in nature. Sure, sometimes things go wrong—nature gets out of kilter and storms happen—but that’s a reflection of the tumult of sin in the world. But more often than not, nature is not only ordered but predictable—reliable even. During these summer months it’s a good time to ponder God’s goodness at the beach or in the mountains or wherever it is you find yourself. His goodness whispers in nature and in the majesty of His creation.
Second, examine your preconceived notions about God. Have you harbored a distorted image of God in your heart? Probably. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve, “They became afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image” (CCC 399). And recognizing that it’s likely you have a distorted image of God, define it. Put it on paper or say it out loud. Sometimes doing that is most enlightening—and jarring. Then contrast it with the truth of scripture and even of approved private revelation, such as the messages of The Divine Mercy.
Third, ask God, through the Holy Spirit, to give you the grace to see and understand Him as He truly is. To do that, look to Jesus. He said if we’ve seen Him we’ve seen the Father. Get to know Him. Get in relationship with Him—have a running dialogue with Him in prayer. Don’t be like those in the gospel who think they knew him and missed Him altogether. Building faith through prayer is not giving Him your laundry list of desires and testing His love by whether He grants them or not. Nope. Prayer is a dialogue and you need to sit down and listen.
The bottom line in faith is not necessarily believing that God can or will perform whatever miracle you may be praying for. It’s trusting in His goodness and wisdom and that if indeed what you’re praying for is good for you, i.e. His will, He can and will grant it. But if it’s not or not the right time, that His not granting or delaying it is the best answer for you.
Thanks to original sin it may feel like we’re trying to scale back up the mountain from which we fell. It’s not always easy, burdened as we are with a fallen nature and emotions that run strong at times.
But ultimately faith is simply this: Believing in His goodness and love for us.
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