April 14, 2012 - Saturday in the Octave of Easter

Today's Readings

In the Gospel according to Mark, the apostles often doubt Jesus, who constantly exhorts them to have more faith. In our reading today, we see this theme repeated. The apostles do not believe Mary Magdalene nor the two disciples who saw Jesus in Emmaus. Only when Jesus appears to them personally do they finally believe. Even then, as we know, Thomas was not with them, and he would not believe the testimony of the others.

This reaction seems very natural to us, certainly more natural than the crazy theories of those who claim that the apostles invented the Resurrection. The Resurrection is not something easy to believe in. Having seen the body of Jesus, tortured, dead beyond doubt, it is not easy to believe that he could be alive. Still, Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith. Should they have been gullible? Should they have just believed whatever unbelievable stories they heard about Jesus rising from the dead?

Sometimes it seems as if that is exactly what faith requires of us. We have to believe without seeing, or even in spite of what we see. The doubt comes along: What if this is all false? Is it possible that billions of people have been tricked into believing a lie? Are we wasting our time with something that does not matter? If the only response that our religion can make to such doubts is an exhortation to have faith, how does that differ from a cult leader who insists that no one question the lies he is telling?

Yet the Church does not say that we should just believe. Jesus did not say that we should just believe. Against our doubts, what is recommended to us is an act of faith. An act of faith is not shutting off our brains. An act of faith is absolutely not trying to believe with our own strength, angrily shouting at anyone who would dare to express doubts. An act of faith is the prayer of the man who asked Jesus to heal his son, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

God will not force us to believe in him, but we cannot believe the unbelievable without supernatural faith, a gift of God. We must ask. Pray for faith, and pray sincerely, and pray unceasingly, and your Father, who gives good gifts to those who ask, will surely give you the Holy Spirit.