He was human, after all. We can presume he laughed too, can’t we? He loved to have children around him, and they wouldn’t come to him if he were always glum. And casting out beams from our eyes to me is certainly humorous in a sardonic way.
And he “groaned within” or “groaned in the spirit” so we know he was capable of deep emotion.
But when we think of Jesus, we are guided by Isaiah—“he was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Fasting, marathon praying, casting out evil spirits, admonishing his followers and others… we know this was a serious guy.
And we can presume he had one thing on his mind: our salvation. This man of sorrows wanted us to be joyful.
But in today’s readings and Gospel, we come up against a real stumbling block, one that dogs us even to this day. Our unbelief.
In fact, that’s a theme throughout the New Testament. Our unbelief.
“OK, you say all these things can happen. Give me some proof!” We doubt everything. We fear to trust. We cower in uncertainty, just as almost everyone in the Bible does at one time or another.
Jesus wept. He wept for his dead friend Lazarus. He wept for the unbelievers. He wept for the believers who would become backsliders. He wept for the condition of humankind then, before, and now.
“Give me proof.”
It is sad, isn’t it? We all need reassurance, proof, pats on the back.
What Jesus gave as proof was what we call miracles. He raised Lazarus from the dead. He turned water into wine. He cured lepers. He made the blind see. He cast out devils.
This is how he taught his followers and his doubters.
And in a few weeks, we will hear from the pulpit that when he showed himself to thousands after his death, they became believers too.
Why do we need these proofs? We certainly don’t get them today. We don’t see people raised from the dead. We don’t see the blind made to see. We don’t…we don’t…or do we?
What is a miracle? The Bible gives us healings, serpents, transfigurations, resurrections. But that was thousands of years ago. What do we have today?
Do you need to see your dead brother brought to life? Do you think it’s even possible? Do you need to see the cancer sufferer cured? Do you think it’s even possible? Do you need to see your life turned around? Do you think it’s even possible?
Let me tell you for a minute one of my own “miraculous” experiences. Eight years ago my son called me and told me that the sonographer could not detect a heartbeat in the baby in his wife’s womb. He was distraught. His wife was distraught. My wife and I were distraught. But Mike did tell me that the doctor wanted to wait a week and have the sonogram taken again.
That was a bad week. What did I do? Yes, I worried. Yes, I was distraught too. But then I thought, “I’ll pray to my mother in heaven and see if she can help.” Let me tell you now that I think my mother is truly a saint in heaven. And since I firmly believe in the communion of saints, I got right on the prayer train to her. Our Fathers, Hail Marys, Rosaries, lots of made up prayers and supplications.
Of course I included Jesus and Mary in the prayers, figuring I should go direct as well.
And the next week…they heard a heartbeat.
Do I know if this was a miracle? I have no idea…that is, I have no proof. But to me, that was a miracle and proof of God’s continuing presence in our lives.
Now I have quite a few friends who take all this as malarkey, and figuratively pat me on the head and say, “whatever makes you happy.” You know the comments. But even in my own doubt (Lord I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.) I figured that this was a true miracle and my mother had one in the win column. But you know it takes two miracles to make a saint, so a year later, there was a similar event that needed divine intervention. Down to the station, back on the prayer train, and more supplications to Jesus, Mary, and Doris, my mother.
Sure enough, another miracle, my sister recovered. Doris has had several more miracles over the years. Maybe I should call the Vatican…
But back to the sermon, the First and Second Readings and the Gospel are talking about life and death, and coming back to life and being alive in the spirit. These are our wishes. In fact, this is what we all hope will happen after we die. We believe there is no end, but a continuation in another realm.
However, let me call your attention back to Psalm 130 from this morning.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleading.
If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness:
for this we revere you.
My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman for daybreak.
Let the watchman count on daybreak
and Israel on the Lord…
Here the psalmist is not asking for proof, miracles, signs. He knows that God will forgive us and he counts on the Lord. That’s the essence for today. We can ask for, we can rely on miracles, but if the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, do we need those signs?
I love them, actually. I firmly believe I have experienced miracles, but I also know that God speaks to us without signs and symbols. So the miracles for me are a comfort. But the daily comfort is there, if only I ask.
Lord as you show us your miracles every day, hear us as we pray, Lord, we believe. Help thou our unbelief.