2nd Sun of Easter - Yr A Divine Mercy Sunday - Fr Alberic Maisog
One cold December morning in Russia in 1849, 20 political prisoners were lined up to be shot by a firing squad. But just before the order was given, an officer rode up, shouting, “Stop! Stop! Czar Nicholas I had just commuted their sentence to 10 yrs of hard labor in Siberia. One of the prisoners was a young man named Feodor Dostoevski. His mother died when he was only 16; his father was murdered a few yrs later. When Dostoevski got to Siberia, he found a copy of the N.T. & began to read it.
-By the time he finished it, he was a firm believer. Describing his impression of Christ, he wrote to a friend: “No one is more beautiful & more perfect than Christ. If anyone proved to me that Christ was outside of the truth…I would prefer to remain outside with Christ than inside with the truth.”
-After his release from prison, Dostoevski turned to writing novels. In quick succession he wrote such classics as Crime & Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. Both of these novels were destined to be made into Holywood movies. But success turned Dostoevski’s head, & he began to drink & to gamble heavily. Worse yet, he set aside his faith.
-Shortly before he died, however, Dostoevski returned to the faith. This irritated his atheistic friends. They ridiculed him, regarding his return to the faith as the sick act of a sick man. Commenting on their redicule, Dostoevski wrote in his diary: “these fools could not even conceive so strong a denial of God as the One to which I gave expression. It is not like a child that I believe in Christ & confess Him. My hosanna has come forth from the crucible of doubt.”
-Dostoevski’s story is not unlike the story of Thomas in today’s Gospel. Like Thomas, Dostoevski once placed all his faith in Christ. And like Thomas Dostoevski abandoned his faith in Christ. And like Thomas, Dostoevski returned to his faith in Christ.
-All of us can related to the stories of Thomas & Dostoevski. After placing all our faith in Christ, we too went on to abandon Christ, just as they did. Or if we did not abandon Christ, we did not follow Him more closely as we should have. Anyone who has traveled the road of faith knows that it’s not a wide paved highway. Rather, it’s a narrow dirt road. Christ Himself said of the road of faith: “How narrow the gate & constricted the road that leads to life.”
-Let us take a closer look at the road of faith. When we analyze it closely, we see that it involves three things: loving trust in God, constant struggle, & times of darkness. 1st, faith involves loving trust in God. In other words, it’s not something totally intellectual. Years ago there was a movie called The Exorcist. In it an old priest said of faith: “In the final analysis, I think belief in God is not a matter of the head, I think it’s a matter of the heart – accepting the possibility that God could love us.”
-In other words, faith is not something purely intellectual, like seeing the solution to a math problem. It’s something much more personal & profound. It’s trusting God, even when the intellect is confused. Recall the story of Abraham. When God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac, Abraham’s intellect was confused. Sacrificing his son meant sacrificing the person through whom God promised him descendants.
-Had Abraham relied solely on his reason, he would have set aside his trust in God. But he didn’t; he chose to trust God. And as a result, God blessed him greatly. And so the 1st thing about faith is that it involves loving trust in God, even in the face of mental difficulties. 2nd, faith involves constant struggle on our part. It is something that never ends for us.
-Again, recall the story of Abraham. When God promised to give Abraham descendants through his son Isaac, Abraham believed. He never doubted. Then, when God told him to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham was faced with his first reason for doubting God.
-That episode taught Abraham an important truth about faith. Faith involves much more than a one-time decision to believe. Rather, it involves a series of on-going decisions to continue to believe. There is no such thing as “getting the faith” & never having to struggle with it again.
-And so the second thing about faith is that it involves constant struggle. And this struggle will go on until we actually see God face to face. Third, faith involves times of darkness. By this we mean there are times when our faith seems to go behind a cloud. There are times when we find it hard to believe. Our faith seems to disappear like the sun on a cloudy day.
-In other words, there are times when God tests our faith, just as He tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his only son. When these times of testing or darkness come, we might recall the words of a fugitive from the Nazis in world War II. He wrote on the wall of a basement in which he was hiding: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I do not feel it. I believe in God even when He is silent.”
-And so, by way of conclusion, traveling the road of faith involves three things: loving trust in God, constant struggle, & times of darkness or testing. Dostoevski experienced these things. Thomas the Apostle experienced them. And we too will experience them.
-Let us close with these words which the Lord Jesus addressed to Thomas, & the 1st letter of St. Peter: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” “Although you have not seen him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable & glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”