As part of a beloved Ascension tradition, we will have lay homilists on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week. Rusty Moore was the homilist on Tuesday.
The Gospel for Tuesday in Holy Week, April 6, 2020
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is telling the crowd of his impending death. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Jesus continues, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The gospel adds, “He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.”
I cannot imagine the fear that Jesus must have felt knowing that he was about to die this way. How did Jesus deal with this kind of fear? What would we do, if we were in his place?
I do, however, know that the times we are living in right now are filled with fear, uncertainty, and confusion. We are afraid for our lives, for our wellbeing in so many ways. Not only due to the immediate threat of COVID-19 but also because of the political and economic turmoil facing our country and across the planet. These are uncertain times. Times of great doubt and confusion. These are times that call us to be our most faithful, and that faith is often hard to find. I imagine that many of us in these times feel like we do not know how to go on, we do not know what to do, and we are afraid. How do we find the faith to do the things that frighten us? If we can allow it, faith can be strengthened in times such as the ones we are currently experiencing.
I also know my own fears. I was overwhelmed with fear when I was asked to do this today. I immediately felt a sense of panic and dread and thought there is no way I can do this. I thought, I must say no. But I did not say no. Despite my crippling fear, I said yes. I wish I could explain how this happened. Where did this willingness to do it anyway come from? It must be from God but how? All I can say is that the voice of the Holy Spirit was speaking to me, and I realized that I could not say no. Even though there is no certainty, and, most times, I do not feel any faith, this felt like an invitation, a calling to a deeper faith than I have yet known. Searching for deeper faith is one of the reasons I did take on this task. I felt like in this there was an opening and a calling from God, and, despite my great discomfort, I said yes. There was a willingness to come closer to faith despite my great doubt.
For me, doubt is at the root of not feeling faithful. Most of us, I would say, feel doubt and question our faith. Has that ever happened to you? I imagine most of you have felt that way. I wonder if this doubt isn’t the soil in which the seeds of the Holy Spirit are planted. Perhaps this is how God works with us in our fear and doubt. Perhaps in acknowledging this fear and doubt, we come to know God more fully. We open ourselves to God’s healing and love when we find the courage to do the things we are afraid to do. I would even venture to say that having doubt is a sign that you have faith. As humans, our faith will never be perfect, nor will it ever feel like enough. It is in returning to God that our faith becomes strengthened.
I believe that Jesus felt doubt, too. His experience at Gethsemane says as much. I believe that despite His doubt, Jesus said yes because of his strong faith in God. He felt God’s presence in his own time of great fear. Jesus knew that God would be with him even in the face of suffering death.
It is our desire to be near God, to be near goodness, that leads us to faith. And this desire helps us overcome our fears and the challenges we face. It is through wanting to be faithful and wanting God that we find the strength and courage to do things that frighten us.
I truly want to believe and to have faith. I think we all want to believe. In Mark’s Gospel, we have a man who brought to Jesus his son who was possessed by a spirit that made him unable to speak and to have convulsions. Jesus said to the father, “All things can be done for the one who believes.” “The father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’” There is great humility in this statement – a request to be made more faithful. It is the acknowledgment of our inadequacy that allows God to work in our lives. We must be able to say that we do not believe and have doubt, and we must ask God to give us more faith. We acknowledge that even our faith comes from God. It is God’s work in our lives that enables us to believe. We must be willing to ask for what we need. God is always present, even when we believe ourselves to be far away from the Divine and do not feel God’s presence in ourselves. God is always there to hear our prayers and to give us what we need to be closer to God. When we doubt, we can ask for more faith.
Spending time reading scripture, prayer, and contemplation can give us a greater understanding and knowledge of God. Just like getting to know a stranger and feeling more trusting, the more time we spend in conscious connection with God, the more trusting we will become. We cannot make ourselves be more faithful. Faith must come from God.
There is no guarantee that this was a good choice, but I did it anyway. There is no guarantee this will bring me faith either, but I must confess that it has brought me a little hope.