6th Sunday B Easter – Where Faith Resides
There is a scene in the Netflix series ‘The Crown’ where a fictive Prince Philip (played by Thomas Menzies) is despondent and turns to the Dean of Windsor for solace. Philip explains his experience of dryness, desolation and frustration as the ‘drip, drip, drip of doubt, disaffection, dis-ease, discomfort.’ He finds himself with ‘an inability to find calm, or satisfaction, or fulfilment.’ Something was amiss, and the Prince identified the missing something as faith. ‘I am here to admit to you that I have lost it and without it, what is there?’ He had been following the moon landing. ‘The loneliness, the emptiness and anti-climax of going all that way to the moon to find nothing but haunting desolation, ghostly silence, gloom. That’s what faithlessness is , as opposed to finding wonder, the miracle of divine creation, God’s design and purpose.’ Philip eventually saw that the solution to the emptiness did not reside in human achievement but instead ‘wherever it is that faith resides.’ The Duke had many interests and hobbies in life, but faith was not one of them. For him faith was something deeper, a light which gave meaning to life.
Faith is about trust, trusting in God, in the Good News of Jesus Christ that we are loved, approved and accepted unconditionally by God, and our wrongdoing has been forgiven. One of the deepest needs of the human heart is the need to be respected and esteemed for who we are. We crave to be acknowledged and valued for who and what we are. Jesus offers this very gift and in endless spades. The weekend magazines are brimming with stories of people who have experienced rejection. The words of Jesus in the gospels offer an experiential assurance of him as he is now, today, risen from the dead and living in and among us in our world. ‘Before Abraham ever was, I Am’ (8:58). To encounter him is to wilfully know He Is Truth and Reality, the light of life and light of the world – John 1: 4-7 and 8:12. This is the thrust of faith and the trust that accompanies and follows it.
The Breath or Spirit of God endows the scriptures with wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge, delight and fear of the Lord (1). These ‘apps’, so to speak, enable us to be peacefully reassured by the scriptures as we listen to God’s Word and take its message on board (1). Scripture needs to be so proclaimed in church that people are given a chance to hear it at their appropriate level. ‘The minister of the Word needs to possess and pass on the message of God which is not a mere deposit of doctrinal truths but a personal and living experience of the Mystery’ (2). The message of Jesus is that we are loved by God without any conditions attached. Our problem is that we keep forgetting. We become distracted and pre-occupied with the task at hand and the effort of getting through the day.
Regular prayer tends to keep me focused. I like what James Martin calls ‘the prayer of noticing’ – noticing when, where and how he (Martin) is already. And how God already is with him. He does this on and off during the day and often find himself listening to what he notices. It’s a kind of brief centering and silent talking and listening to God. He recommends we avoid rote prayer – gliding through familiar words and not paying attention. When praying the Divine Office I often stop and go back over the psalm verses I’ve not been attending to. Then I refocus/re-centre and say to myself ‘Pay attention – God is here!’ At the end of the day I ask myself if I learned anything new about life, about God or about myself. It’s good in a pinch to have a few friendly words from the gospel up my sleeve. I find it calming and it helps me to refocus on what matters (3)
Fr. QQ – 5/5/2021
1 – Isaiah 11: 1-3 cf. 2 Timothy 3: 16-17
2 – Pope St John Paul II, ‘Donum et Mysterium’
3 – James Martin, LEARNING TO PRAY, ch. 6