March 27, 2015
Friday of the 5th week of Lent
Jesus Changes Our Reason For Believing
“Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord.”
Many would answer, if asked what proof Jesus gave that he was God or from God, “He worked miracles!” In today’s Gospel Jesus would accept that, but only as second-best. He says, “If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works.”
It is true that by “works” (erga) Jesus does not mean miracles (“deeds of power,” dunamis), to which he appeals as a motive for conversion in, for example, Matthew 11:21: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” But the principle is still the same: Jesus is saying, “even if you do not believe me just because of what I am in myself, what you somehow see in me as a person, then—as second-best—believe because of what I do, because of the actions I perform.”
We might ask, “What have we got to judge by, if it is not how a person acts?” I don’t have a clear answer to that, but maybe Jesus means that there comes a point, after one had heard or read his words and learned about his actions, when one goes beyond the words and actions to a perception of the person that is deeper than and no longer dependent on the externals. One wonders if that was behind the credibility the people gave to John the Baptizer: “John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true.” They trusted John, just because they knew who he was.
However that may be, we know with the benefit of theological input, that real faith in Jesus is a gift of God not to be confused with any rational conclusion, however justified. Those who believe Jesus is the divine Son of God believe it because they know it, and they know it because the Father is revealing it to them. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me” (John 6:44).
We know that the Father draws everyone. It is a doctrine of our faith that God “desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy2:4). So if any are not drawn to Jesus, it is because they are refusing to listen to the Father. He said, “Whoever hates me hates my Father also.” And those who reject and kill his disciples “will do this because they have not known the Father or me” (John 15:23; 16:3).
Ultimately, what Jesus is saying is that anyone whose heart is good will recognize him for who he is. If any do not recognize him as good, it is because their heart is bad. But this does not mean we can judge anybody, because—echoing the famous words of Pope Francis—“who are we to judge” whether anyone has accepted Christ or not?
(See the New York Times report (July 29, 2013) on Francis’ “airplane interview” while returning from Brazil: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word “gay.” … “It’s not a great opening in terms of contents, but the fact that he talked about it that way is a great novelty,” said Paolo Rodari, a Vatican expert at the Italian daily La Repubblica. Francis would probably agree with Benedict’s writings on homosexuality, he added, “but it doesn’t interest him. It interests him to say that the problem in the end isn’t if someone has this tendency, the important thing is to live in the light of God,” Mr. Rodari said. “Said by a pope, it’s enormous).
Francis is famous for looking deeper than words. For him, the important question is not whether one professes to be Catholic, Protestant, non-Christian or atheist, but whether one believes unconditionally in “the Good, the True and the Beautiful” (the “transcendentals” common to all Being) regardless of the name used to identify them. Those who accept without limitation the goodness of the Father’s creation are implicitly accepting the infinite Goodness of the Father.
So what is the metanoia, the “change of mind” to which Jesus is calling us? He is calling us to look into our hearts and to realize that the reason we believe in Jesus is that we just know he is mnwho he says he is. There is nothing wrong with supporting this knowledge by rational arguments, the testimony of saints and scholars, or by the inexplicable evidence of miracles. But in the last analysis, we believe because we just know. It is a gift of God; the gift of faith.
Do I choose to let Jesus change what I recognize as the reason why I believe in him?
Pray: “I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Practice: Look into your heart. Be conscious that you believe because you know.
Discuss: If all your logical reasons for believing in Jesus and in the Church were destroyed, would you still believe?