Driving into Corpus Christi on Interstate 37 one now notices a rather curious sign. It reads: “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”
It’s obviously a very public posting with a specific intent. But there is room to wonder whether it actually conveys more than was intended. As a believer, reading between the lines, I read it another way. I read: “Don’t believe in God? The truth is you’re not alone. He is with us!”
It reminds me of two stories, one from Scripture and one from the life of a canonized Saint. The passage from Scripture has to do with Caiaphas, the high priest involved in the orchestration of Jesus’ execution. He unwittingly prophesied the real significance of Jesus’ death.
As the Sanhedrin met, the argument went like this: “What are we going to do? If we leave him (Jesus) alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” (In other words, bad things will happen if too many people come to believe in Jesus!)
“But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on, they planned to kill him.” John 11: 47-53
There is no doubt that western society has adopted a militant spirit against believers. But not all believers. God forgive us but we are not bothered by believers in abortion, believers in freedom to pursue every type of perversity, believers in satanism (a creed that has definite destructive and malicious intent), believers in almost any kind of religion, even violent ones. We are not bothered by believers in systems or ideologies that consistently degrade or offend against human dignity. But we are “bothered” by believers in Jesus Christ! We are bothered by His effect on people, His power to persuade people, to influence them, to change their lives.
The argument is that bad things happen when too many people believe in God. Our civilization is held back and the glory of man in all his capacity for achievement is retarded. Isn’t that the common position of those who oppose organized religion? Ignorance and religion are equated and held to be responsible for man's lack of development.
We somehow conveniently forget that our rebellion in the garden changed everything. We are the ones who changed paradise and opened the door to death and suffering and corruption. Jesus comes to rescue us and instead we blame Him and the Church He established, for our woes.
It can easily be argued that we live in a world that is still trying to kill God, and which justifies this by
What’s even crazier is that we tried to definitively destroy Him once. But then He rose, conquering death and all evil in the process and claiming for us an inheritance that utterly transcends anything the Romans can ever take away from us. And what is our reaction? The same as the reaction of the Pharisees to Lazarus. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and because so many people came to believe as a result, the furious response of the Pharisees was: "Let's kill him again!"
Somehow we become bent on destroying the eternal. Because the eternal intrudes upon our immediate plans. Why we are so interested in preserving our “mess of pottage” over the infinite treasures promised us is one of the strange ironies of our fallen nature. And yet in our attempts to deny and destroy the existence of God’s real presence among us, we testify to it at the same time.
The Billboard also reminded me of a story that comes from the life of Padre Pio. St. Pio was a stigmatist who lived in the last century and was renowned for his life of holiness and for the countless souls he touched in the confessional, as well as through other miraculous interventions. He had numerous mystical gifts which are all well documented in an age where there was plenty of science to test them.
From the beginning of time we have had a basic choice: submission to the Truth, or rebellion. Submission leads to life, to allowing God to love us... which is all He really wants to do. Rebellion eventually culminates in our trying to kill God once again but leads only to our own eternal death.
Do atheists have legitimate questions? Of course. Do believers have legitimate questions? Certainly. But as Pope Benedict said: "Anyone who makes up his mind to evade the uncertainty of belief, will have to experience the uncertainty of unbelief..."
It is good to remember that for believers, the path to Resurrection goes through persecution and death. In the divine economy, Jesus makes persecution one of the beatitudes. As Fr. John Hardon, S.J. writes, the beatitudes are "promises of happiness made by Christ to those who faithfully accept His teaching and follow His divine example." The pattern of Jesus’s redemptive work passes by the Way of the Cross. So too will our age be redeemed in the same way.
As we celebrate with special fervor during this year of Faith, amidst the disbelieving “signs” of our times, and solicitous for the salvation of all our brothers and sisters, our hearts catch the new fire of the Easter light that pierces the darkness of doubt hanging over the world in which we live. Jesus has triumphed in Resurrection, in glory and majesty; and within the embrace of Our Blessed Mother, whose singular faith during the Paschal Mystery emboldens us, we hold His light for the world to see until He comes again in glory! Alleluia! He lives no more to die, but lives that all may have eternal life!