Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
Reflecting on this Sunday’s Gospel, Fr. Johnny Go shared that doubt is not exactly the opposite of faith; for sometimes it is in our darkest moments of doubting that we see the true light of faith. Indeed, doubts are the force that keep us swinging back and forth from belief to unbelief. And that despair is not exactly the opposite of hope; for it is sometimes in moments when everything seems lost that we find the courage to rise up and make one final effort to get over the hump of our desperation. Indeed, despair is dark force that pushes us into the glimmering of hope. And that hatred is not exactly the opposite of love; for sometimes it is the blinding impetus of hatred that propels us into the shimmering power of love. Indeed, it is sometimes with the same people that we experience the intensity of both love and hatred.
Instead, Fr. Johnny suggested that the real enemies and destroyers of faith, hope and love are certitude and overfamiliarity. “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” the people of Nazareth said. They thought they knew who Jesus was and knowing him, thought they could tell what he was supposed to do. They expected Him to do His miracles among them. Of course, He did not and instead chastised them. “When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.”
It is a familiar Gospel story. But it is exactly what happened in my life. When I went into my cardiac operation five months ago, I thought I knew the Lord and that I had an intimate relationship with Him. My prayer as I was wheeled into the operating room was, “Lord, we are in this together. Help me get through this as easily as possible.” It was not with humble faith nor with a faithful humility that I said these words. It was with the cocky entitlement of a very presumptuous and even demanding believer. The Lord did me a Nazareth. When the operation was over, I expected the Lord to make pain to be bearable. It was not. I expected Him to make it go away. It did not. I expected Him to console me with His presence. He was absent. I felt my faith melting away. I was eaten by despair and despondency. I was hitting out in anger and hatred even at the one human person on earth who love me like no other – Anabelle.
I was at the height of my pride and I turned away from my spiritual life and exercises. I stopped praying. I tried to make it on my own. I had become so certain and overfamiliar with my God. I thought I knew Him. I thought I owned Him. But slowly and subtly, the Lord coaxed me back. It was our hikes and communing with nature that proved valuable. Standing before the vista of nature, there was a presence and an awareness that was there before me – mysterium tremendum et fascinans, a presence and an awareness that people down the ages have worshipped and adored as God.
Looking out into immensity of the sea, or wondering at the grandeur of the mountains, or gaping at the splendor of the fields, I am overwhelmed by feelings that I am loved, that I am precious and that I matter. All this beauty is for me to enjoy and appreciate. I wish I could capture it all in the palm of my hands. But no. Rather he who created all this has me in the palm of his hand. I wish I could comprehend it all and capture it in my thoughts. But no. Rather I am a thought, a word, a name in the mind of this Omnipotent and Almighty God.
There is mystery that talks to me. He intimates to me all the beauty, goodness and truth that He is. Yet, I cannot fully comprehend it all. I do not even understand it all. This makes me fearful and uncomfortable. And yet, this mystery keeps on calling me into an intimate relationship. I have been in the depths of doubts and despair. These bouts have not destroyed my faith, nor my hopes, nor my love. But instead these have made me stronger in faith, hope and love.
The mysterium tremendum et fascinans is slowly and subtly transforming my life.