March 26, 2015
Thursday of the 5th week of Lent
Jesus Changes Our Level Of Certitude
“I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be a liar.”
What can you say you are absolutely certain of? Forget the jokes (“Death and taxes”) and the obvious (“The hand in front of my face”), and go to what is important—and not visible.
Can you say as absolutely as Jesus did: “I know God the Father. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be a liar”?
Are you absolutely certain that if you “keep Jesus’ word you will never see death”?
Can you combine the two statements above and say with certitude, together with Jesus, “I do know the Father, and I keep his word”? Do you think that would be presumptuous?
To take one more example, are you absolutely sure that your life is contributing something good to the world? In the first reading God promised Abraham: “I will render you exceedingly fertile.” In John’s Gospel (15:16), Jesus promised all of us, “I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”
Lent is a good time to ask how certain we are about what we believe. Am I just “hoping for the best”? Or am I so certain I will stake my life on what I believe, as Jesus is about to stake his as we enter into Holy Week?
Don’t ask, “Am I willing to die for what I believe?” That is a little remote, not to say unrealistic. Ask instead, “Am I willing to live for what I believe?” Does the life I am living right now make it obvious—to me and to others—that I really know God? Know he is my Father, and that I am divine because I share God’s own divine life? Know I can feel good about the effect my life is having on the human race? Know that I am keeping God’s word? Know that I will never die?
The truth is, if I am not absolutely certain about all of these fundamentals, I have some converting to do. It means I need a metanoia, a “change of mind” that goes hand-in-hand with a change of attitudes, values and behavior. I know it sounds threatening to say this, but if I am not absolutely certain about all of the above, I am not experiencing authentic Christianity. I have not accepted the Good News. I need to be “evangelized.”
If you are feeling upset with this, you may be falling into the common error of confusing being certain with feeling certain. The certitude that accompanies faith is the greatest certitude there is, but we experience it as the “dark light of faith,” and during periods of the “dark night of the soul” we have no feeling of certitude at all. When St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the “Little Flower,” was going through her “dark night,” she told her superior, “I want to believe there is life after death.” But she had no felt belief in it at all. She went on to say, “I have made more acts of faith this year than in all of my life before.” She believed. And she was certain about what she believed. But she didn't feel it.
You may need a spiritual director to help you distinguish between your faith and your feelings. But asking the questions here is a good way to begin. More than likely, if you ask them, and take time to get in touch with your deepest heart, you will be able to “own” your faith more clearly, more explicitly than you ever have before.
So ask yourself, “Do I choose to let Jesus change my level of certitude?”
Pray: “Lord, if today I hear your voice, open up my heart.”
Practice: Form the habit of verifying whether your choices and unexamined assumptions are consistent with your deepest convictions.
Discuss: How do you know you believe?