The other day, my youth minister threw my phone out of a (moving) car window. It was his way of teaching me to be “in the world but not of it.” He’s a tough-luck kind of guy.
Just kidding. He did throw my phone out the window, but it was an accident.
I was shocked. I am a typical teenager, which means that my phone contains basically everything I need to function. I looked behind me, watching as cars passed ominously by the little black dot on the road. We U-turned, picked it up off the pavement, and saw that, by the grace of God, it hadn’t been run over. It was even still blasting Matt Maher’s “All the People Said Amen.”
At first, I was tempted to give my youth minister the silent treatment. C’mon man, you threw my phone into traffic! I was tempted to cry. What if it never works ever again? What are my parents gonna say??
But then a different thought occurred to me: forgiveness. I couldn’t stay mad at my youth minister, a powerful witness to Christ in my life and all-around rockin’ individual. It was just an accident. So I let it go.
A TRUE TEST OF FAITH
That was so holy of me, a voice in my head whispered. Way to go, Faith, you future saint, you! Forgiveness for the win!
But that little voice — the voice of pride — was leading me astray. I’m no saint. It’s just a phone, I realized. So what? It wasn’t ruined. It wasn’t a tragedy. Of course I should have let it go. That was nothing special.
If I really wanted to test my “holiness,” then I should have watched the phone shatter to a billion pieces. Would I still have been as eager to forgive?
In fact, if my faith were to be truly tested, God allowing my phone to shatter into a billion pieces wouldn’t have even been sufficient. Rather, I would probably have to endure the true tragedy and loss, or all the hatred humanity could throw at me, and still forgive, still remain faithful, joyful, and devoted. That would be real faith.
SEARCHING FOR PROOF
In John 20:24-31, St. Thomas earns a reputation for his perhaps most well-known attribute: doubt. Don’t get me wrong, he was one holy Apostle, committed to Christ and His teachings, but the poor guy just had some trouble with skepticism. The Crucified Christ returns, and he’s not there to see it. His timing couldn’t have been worse. If I were him, I would have doubted, too!
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into His side, I will not believe,” Thomas tells his fellow Apostles.
Our compassionate Christ satisfies Thomas’ requests and appears to him, nail marks and all. Thomas gets the tangible evidence he requires to believe, but Jesus also leaves him with a wise reminder.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
I don’t mean to diminish the faithfulness of the Apostles, but it’s really no surprise that they believed in Christ’s Resurrection. After all, they saw Him. They touched Him. Of course they would believe. Those who had not seen, on the other hand… well, they were real MVPs.
The disciples who weren’t there didn’t have the luxury of tangible proof. They had to take others’ word for it, to trust that Jesus was truly risen. Without proof, that’s a pretty outrageous claim to support.
So, yes, the Apostles are holy witnesses and courageous disciples, but in regards to believing the unbelievable, those who hadn’t been with them that night were the more blessed, the more trusting.
And the same holds true for today’s faithful. Sometimes, we don’t have the proof we want. We don’t have the answers to all our questions, nor the dramatic encounters with Christ we would desire. But that’s no reason to close the door on our belief, to claim that Christ is not real, or that Christ is not there for us. Rather, this is an opportunity to deepen our faith.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN
Mother Teresa experienced spiritual dryness and a lack of consolations throughout much of her ministry. She wrote,
“In my heart there is no faith — no love — no trust — there is so much pain — the pain of longing, the pain of not being wanted. I want God with all the powers of my soul — and yet there between us — there is terrible separation.”
THE Mother Teresa, spiritual powerhouse and selfless caretaker of the desolate and dying, felt that she had no proof God was there. She had no lovey-dovey gushy feelings, no rainbows and butterflies at the thought of her Savior, and still she poured her heart out to Him in life-changing and awe-inspiring service. That is faith: to believe in God’s love, and to spread His joy, even when you have every reason not to.
With this faith, she reached the conclusion that, “in spite of it all — I am His little one — I love Him…”
Blessed are those who love despite loneliness, radiate light despite darkness, and trust despite loss. That is true holiness.
Blessed are those who watch a thousand eighteen wheelers run over their phone and proceed to smile at the one who dropped it in the road. That is forgiveness.
When you have ample proof, believing is only natural. But when the going gets tough, when your faith is challenged, that is when true faith reveals itself.
“Lord, I believe. Help my disbelief!” Mark 9:24