Sunday, 21 October 2012
On why it is good to believe, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Shaftesbury
Isa 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45
I've spoken in recent weeks about a couple aspects of what it means to believe. I'd like, today, to conclude that for a while by speaking of another aspect of what is involved in believing, namely, the need to CHOOSE to believe. Cardinal Newman spoke about this when he said that we need to choose to believe, and in order to choose to believe we need to first recognise that there is something DESIRABLE about believing, some reason why we should WANT believe:
reason can show us the reasonableness of believing, can show us why we should believe, but we still need to CHOOSE to believe.
St. Thomas Aquinas likewise spoke about how we need to recognise that it is GOOD to believe. This means, among other things, that we need to recognise the goodness of the One in whom we are called to believe, namely, to recognise the goodness of God. After all, why would someone choose to believe in an EVIL god?
Now, let me pause on that thought for a moment, because when people give reasons for why they DON'T believe the most common reason people give is a reason that basically boils down to saying that if there is a god he is an evil god, namely, people point to the reality of suffering, and people say this is why they don't believe in God. So, how can WE say it makes sense to believe in God in a world of suffering? How can it be GOOD to believe, given the reality of suffering?
These are tough questions, but, they are also questions that ONLY Christianity is able to squarely face. I don't means so much that we have the doctrine of Original Sin to explain that suffering was not created by God but only entered this world with sin, and, I don't mean so much that we have the doctrine of Providence to say that even through suffering God works to bring a good about for us that is even greater than the suffering He permits for us.
Rather, what I mean, is the truth that all three of our scripture readings today make reference to in different ways: that God has entered our world of pain and suffering and become one with us in it.
Our first reading spoke of the prophecy of the Suffering Servant who took our faults upon Himself (Isa 53:11). Similarly, our Gospel text referred to how Jesus gave Himself up, in suffering, to be the ransom for our sins; how He let Himself become a servant for our sakes. And, perhaps most directly, we have the passage in our second reading about Jesus as the supreme High Priest. Our second reading is part of a series of second readings from Hebrews that began 2 Sundays ago and goes on for another 4 weeks. But, from the perspective of what I Have been talking about, namely, God's entering our world of suffering and thus showing Himself to be a kind and loving God, it is today's text that is possibly the focal point: "it is not as if we had a High Priest who was incapable of feeling our weakness with us" (Heb 4:15) - we want a God who is with us in our problems, and this is exactly what He has made Himself.
So, to return to my opening question, about the desirability of believing in Him, about how He has shown Himself to be a good God, and about how it is good to believe in Him:
Evil seems, at one level, to be the ultimate reason to not believe in a loving God.
But, in the face of the incarnation, in the light of seeing that He has entered our world of suffering and pain, in the face of seeing Him upon the Cross,
we see that He has transformed what seems to show Him unloving, and made it into the greatest sign of His love.
He has, in this, shown us that it is good to believe in Him, and to thus by faith share in a communion of love with Him in the midst of a world where suffering otherwise can leave us alone.
So, given this, and given, as in other weeks I've been touching upon, and as our series of talks on faith are articulating, given that reason shows that there are reasons to believe in Him, then, the Cross also shows that it is GOOD to do so as well.
And so we can CHOOSE to believe in Him: He is a good and loving God, and this is what He has SHOWN Himself to be.