Look to the Cross

We are people of faith. We participate in Mass and draw inspiration because we are believers. Jesus is present, he speaks to us through his Word, he comes to us in our Communion. And what we participate in during the short time of worship is not our only act of faith. We continue the conversation with God as we turn to him in prayer during the week. We practice the example of Jesus himself, as we seek to make his words and actions present in how we treat people, in how we live in our home, in our efforts to make the world a better place because we are here.

But, there are times our faith is tested. We turn to God and pour out our heart, because someone we love is suffering, or the burdens of life seem too hard to bear and God seems to be silent. Our beautiful child begins to test the limits of family life and our authority, and our home becomes a place of struggle and discord. We lead a good life and do everything we can to please God, but we look around and others seem to have a better life and more happiness than we do. We declare while at church that God loves us, but sometimes we have our doubts about how he is demonstrating that love.

In the days following the resurrection of Jesus, the gospels make it clear that Thomas was not the only one with doubts. When Peter and John arrive at the empty tomb, John says that they pondered the meaning of these things because they did not yet understand the meaning of Jesus rising from the dead. At first Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for the gardener. The disciples on the road to Emmaus are leaving town because with Jesus dead there was no reason to stay in Jerusalem. In each case, Jesus himself appears to prove that it is true. He is alive!

Thomas heard about his rising from the others, because he was not there when Jesus came to be with them. And Thomas makes his act of faith in the truth that Jesus lives dependent on a strange set of evidence. Thomas has a remarkable insight. He wants to see the scars. The greatest proof of how much Jesus loves us was given as he hung on the Cross and gave away the last drop of his blood. And that outpouring of love left marks on his body. Thomas would believe it was really Jesus if he could see for himself the physical evidence that this was the one who loved him so much.

Years ago seafood companies had a perplexing problem with the shipment of codfish to consumers who lived inland. Shippers discovered that frozen codfish loses its flavor in the shipping process. Shipping live codfish was no better. In the holding tanks they become soft and mushy and later tasteless. So someone came up with the idea of throwing in some catfish into each of the tanks of live cod. Catfish and codfish are natural enemies. In a quest for survival, the codfish kept in constant motion as they sought to escape the catfish. Thereby these cod were kept in peak condition from the ocean to the dinner table.

The gospel today ends with wonderful words for us. “Blessed are those who have not seen, but have believed.” We are those people of faith. The times of doubt and questioning that we experience in our life with God are like those catfish lurking at the bottom of the holding tank. They challenge us to look for proof of how much we are loved like Thomas. When we wonder if we can go on as we suffer, we look at the Cross and know that Jesus understands. When we feel unappreciated and treated unfairly, we look at the Cross and see one who gives us the courage to forgive. When our life seems to be so routine and ordinary, we look at the Cross and remember how much we are loved and that there is still more we can give. God created us as thinking persons, so to have doubts and to look for the meaning behind our experiences is our nature. And when our faith seems weak, we look at the Cross and see how much we are loved. And so, we don’t need to give up. Jesus is alive and with us at every moment.

–Fr. Stephen W Bierschenk