"I believe; help my unbelief." Those are words, in Mark’s Gospel, of a father seeking a healing from Jesus for his sick child. Familiar words that we pray at times. Our faith is strong but not perfect. There are moments we don’t understand what God is doing in our life; we feel neglected; we are in pain; we are angry. "I believe; help my unbelief."
Talib Huff, in yesterday’s reflection, invited us to find Jesus not only in remarkable events but also in the familiar activities of our life, like eating a meal together. The readings today carry forward that theme that the risen Christ is present always and everywhere; he is not thwarted by locked doors, walls, fears or doubts.
The readings today describe the inconsistent sides of faith. We hear Jesus rebuke the apostles for their weak faith and stubborn hearts. They have heard two independent and reliable reports about the resurrection of Jesus, yet they didn’t believe. In the first reading, we listen to the story of Peter and John preaching in public. The religious leaders demanded that they stop. However, the two apostles firmly and boldly stand against the threats of the Jewish leaders. The apostles don’t back down but continue to proclaim the story of the resurrection. In one situation the apostles’ faith has been severely weakened; in another their faith is as strong as rock.
"I believe; help my unbelief." Both the good times and bad times of our faith journey are indispensable parts of the journey. Intellectual and emotional turmoil can plague any of us at a given moment in our lives. No one is characterized by a "red-hot" faith around the clock. We feel neglected; we don’t understand why the Lord doesn’t rush to our aid. We refuse to talk to him (i.e., we don’t pray). We think we can punish God by not going to Mass on Sunday. We may even say thoughtless things about God, figuratively shaking our fist in his face.
The locked door and the strong walls of the room in which the fearful and depressed apostles huddled after the death of Jesus did not keep Jesus out of their lives. He appears and says, "Peace be with you." When we close the door and shut ourselves up in self-pity or anger or despair, we have not truly isolated ourselves from the risen Christ. That is the very moment, if we are willing to patiently listen, we hear a quiet whisper, "Peace be with you."
Fr. Donald A. Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago, Illinois.