In one episode of the gospel story of Jesus, but unrelated to today’s readings, a father upon seeing Jesus heal his son, cries out “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
Perhaps his example is one we could take to heart as we read today’s gospel story.
For John presents Jesus as both acknowledging the faith of the disciples and yet warning them of the troubles to come, times when their faith will fail them and they will desert him.
I wonder though whether in fact it is faith that fails us in crisis times or indeed if it is courage that fails us. By this I mean that faith is a deeply resolute part of our lives, it may be challenged but is rarely completely extinguished. Rather it is often courage that fails us when we encounter opposition, strife and even persecution. When confronted with a moment in which the ‘fight or flight’ tendency takes over, it is often flight that people choose. This is not to say they no longer believe in God, nor that their faith is extinguished, but they flee to safety rather than standing tall and strong and living as a witness to deeper values in the moment.
But let us not forget that over these past few years we have also seen wonderful examples of Christian men and women standing for their faith and suffering for it too. Faced with all kinds of evils, in too many troubled lands, Christians have faced opposition even to the point of martyrdom for the sake of their faith and for no other reason than they believe. We sadly see this on our nightly news services, and it echoes a theme reflected again and again from the Vatican itself that Christians are amongst the most persecuted peoples in the world today.
Perhaps this is the sense of Jesus concluding words in today’s gospel – “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”
Of course our trials and tests come to us disguised as daily events, small and large, and each and every one has the potential to scatter us, to send us to our own ‘home’ (that place of safety where we are not confronted by the challenge before us). Faced with daily moments like these, let us pray that we will place our lives continuously in the hands of Jesus and stand with him in those moments of trial.
Let us believe he has conquered the world and that he will always be for us.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia. He currently serves on the General Council and is stationed in Rome.