Reflection for January 7, 2000: Friday after Epiphany.

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Krettek, Thomas, S.J.
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As I read over today's scriptures, I was reminded of the experience of a woman I met once. One time she was trying to find shoes for a friend of hers who lived on the streets. Her experience led her to two realizations. The first, when her involvement with the project began, was that she really didn't trust in God's care for and protection of her, though she did trust them for others. The second, when most improbably the shoes arrived, was that "God does truly know our needs and responds immediately to us." Through her experience she realized how truly vulnerable all people are and also how God's providence really does sustain us.|Her experience recalls for me the events in Mark 9 when right after the Transfiguration Jesus is asked to heal a boy with an evil spirit because his disciples cannot. The event turns on the ability to believe. Jesus tells the boy's father, "Everything is possible for him who believes." To which the father responds, "I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief." He too was trying to help someone close to him whom he was concerned about. When faced with the reality of the situation, the truth of his life became clear to him, "I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief."|The Johannine writings are permeated with the purpose of bringing people to belief through testimony to the identity of Jesus. The reference to blood and water in today's first reading from 1 John hearkens back to chapter 19 in John's gospel when the soldier pierces Jesus' side and blood and water flow out. John notes, "The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe." And the whole of the gospel is filled with signs that "are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (20:31). John returns to this truth in his epistle. "And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."|The cure of the leper and the others who came to Jesus for healing, just as with the finding of the shoes, are the experiences that lead the followers of Jesus to affirm that in Jesus is life. Jesus wills healing, forgiveness, and life for those who come to him. When events happen that, though much less dramatic signs of God's providence than the cure of the boy or the provision of shoes or the sudden flow of blood and water, the father's prayer is often my prayer, "I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief."|The sticky part is the believing part. There seems to be a bit of a catch-22 here. In order to see the signs, we need to believe. However, unless we see signs, we find it hard to believe. It does not seem to be of much help to know what we could do with faith if we had it because the problem seems to be that we don't have it and don't know how to get it.|This is when I need to be reminded of the connection between hope and faith. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for . . ." The people who turned to Jesus did so because they hoped for healing, forgiveness, and life either for themselves or for others. The whole of chapter 11 in the letter to the Hebrews recounts the history of people who lived in hope and so lived lives of faith. It appears that we cannot have one without the other. When I stop hoping, I stop needing faith and stop being able to receive it. Maybe my prayer should become, "Lord I hope, help me overcome my lack of hope."
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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