Volume 24, Issue1
Br Mark O'Connor
We live in an age of doubt, when many people seem to thrive on conflict and negativity. It can get you down. One of the worst features of our 24/7 media cycles and the information and opinion overload that we all experience is the insidious way it dulls our sensitivity to faith in God and others.
Often we simply miss seeing the ‘miracles’ of faith, grace and kindness that are happening all around us! Instead, ideology rules in our culture and Church. That can be so tiresome, even boring, if you are truly seeking the Spirit of the Risen Jesus.
Little things can build up and make us lose ground momentarily. Add fatigue, a seemingly cold remark, someone’s inability to hear you, someone’s innocent forgetfulness that feels like rejection … and the presence of God can seem to evade us.
We can even grow used to reading the Word of God, and stories from believers throughout history can become infected by a cynicism that quietly wonders whether the ‘Age of Miracles’, and indeed the mission of the Church, is over. We become doubting Thomases so easily.
But if we open our eyes to the Spirit we can indeed affirm, like Thomas the Apostle, ‘I believe’.
That journey of faith and belief will, of course, take different shapes as we grow in life.
In the first half of life, we need to get rid of our first naivete (to borrow a famous phrase of Paul Ricoeur). In the second half, we perhaps move towards a second simplicity, a docta ignorantia (more aware of how much we do not know and never can, and being comfortable with that). In the second part of life, we are invited to a ‘bright sadness’. There is something egalitarian about growing older. We learn that we are all equally naked underneath our clothes; we are all sinners, all on a journey.
To say ‘I believe’ is, nonetheless, still a challenge in this world. That is why Cardinal Carlo Martini SJ used to recommend that believers took risks. Faith is the great risk of life. ‘Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but the one who loses his life for my sake will save it’ (Matthew 16:25). Everything has to be given up for Christ and his Gospel.
Cardinal Martini also insisted that a vibrant faith meant disciples must befriend the poor. We put the poor at the centre of our lives because they are the friends of Jesus, who made himself one of them.
Finally, the late Milanese Cardinal urged believers to practise humility. We should never think that it is up to us to solve the great problems of our times or still less act as if we can make others believe. Faith is first a gift from God. We need to leave room for the Holy Spirit, who works better than we do and more deeply.
Yes, doubt is something we all experience. But with the Spirit’s help, like Thomas, we can move through this ‘desert’ and say with him: ‘My Lord and My God’.
We can begin to pray the first words of our Credo, ‘I believe’!
Br Mark O’Connor FMS is Director, Archbishop’s Office for Evangelisation.