Whoever believes in me will do the same works that I do myself, he will perforn even greater works, because I am going to the Father. As far back as when I was an altar boy I puzzled over those words of Jesus because I never could see any evidence to suggest they might be true. Growing up I adhered to religious practice that was quite devoid of power. The odd miracle that was spoken of was associated with somewhere like Lourdes or with some great saint like Padre Pio. Now, as someone who has lived most of my life, I have no doubt as to the truth of those words but I do see them as a reflection on how far we have drifted away from the core message of Jesus as the centuries have progressed.
Central to Jesus message was the need to believe and have faith. The word ‘believe’ occurs 98 times alone in the Gospel of St John. We somehow reduced belief and faith to an intellectual acceptance of certain beliefs and dogmas like the Creed. However the question needs to be asked has anyone ever been changed or healed by reciting a creed? Similarly when people faithfully perform religious duties and attend Mass, is there any real expectation that coming out from church they will be any different from when they went in. An essential component of faith is expectancy but why has that been absent for so long?
When this Corona Virus hit, like so many I felt quite overwhelmed by its enormity and didn’t know how to pray in relation to it. Initially it was simply praying in some vague hope that it would soon pass and that all would be well. Gradually that changed to, ‘Lord teach me how to pray about this because the way I’m going about it just doesn’t seem quite right’. Some time later as I expressed in an open letter recently I had just finished benediction and was going out the sacristy door when I heard an inaudible whisper that completely took me by surprise. Yet I felt that this was the answer to that request and really was the Word of the Lord. The Word that is not our own always bears repeating and it was:
When are you going to say enough, and start exercising the power of faith that I have given you to overcome this virus in your midst; when are you going to stop being the victim, seeing yourself powerless against this unseen enemy. Let your faith be nourished by prayer and use that faith to overcome this challenge and prove victorious. Now is the time to unite in prayer and exercise your faith in a very real way. This test you have the power to turn into a testimony of faith.
From the flood of responses received from so many people, even in different countries, the one common denominator is that the call to pray in faith was exactly what they needed to hear at this time. So many said that their prayer lacked that essential ingredient of faith and had become more hopeful and aspirational than faith filled. One lady said that after being on a spiritual journey most of her life and having read a thousand books on the subject the key component of what it meant to pray in faith had always been lacking. Only now did the words of Jesus make sense when he said, 'What ever you ask for in faith believe that you have already received and it will be granted to you'.
We have heard so often that seeing is believing; but in the realm of faith believing is also seeing, and in the words of Jesus to doubting Thomas, 'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe'. This is where hope looks forward to what we would like to see whereas faith rests on the assurance that the answer is already given and so can pray, with confidence; Thy kingdom come on earth as in heaven. Faith sees the answer as already a given fact in that other dimension.
Finally before we can begin to exercise faith for the bigger picture we need to begin with the smaller one of our own life. This is where the ripple effect comes into effect. The exercise of faith needs to extend to every area of my life and then its effects will begin to ripple out in ever expanding circles. In relation to my own circumstances can I see myself as being above rather than below them. When someone enquires how we are, and the reply is; not so bad, under the circumstances; that is not a faith response! In relation to everyday problems that arise faith allows us to think only of solutions and opportunities. In terms of our own undulating emotions, faith brings us to the level plateau where all is already well and all manner of things will be well, to quote the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich. Where health is an issue, or we are trying to regain our health, either physically or emotionally, the faith position is to see ourselves healthy and full of energy with each new day bringing us closer to the realization of that reality. When we allow fear to turn our thoughts to sickness we will remain sick. When our thoughts, by the exercise of faith, change to health the door is opened for this to become our reality. This is true faith in the Resurrection and so As St Augustine said; 'Halleluia is always our song'. Our very thoughts whether they are of faith or fear will slowly change our reality because as we think so we are and so we shall be.