I had a conversation recently with a psychologist counseling elderly and terminally ill religious. Though a professed atheist he told me of his admiration for religious life. He curiously observed that if only he could rid himself of his skepticism and doubts, he would become a monk himself! His remark suggests to me again that at some place in our inner being everyone searches for some kind of unfaltering faith. A faith that will not flinch under the test of trial and doubt!
Isn’t this Job’s search? Is he feeling embarrassed or maybe ashamed that he may be flinching under trial as he pleads, “Pity me, pity me, O my friends for the hand of God has struck me!” Francis of Assisi, in his initial days searching for unfaltering faith, encountered a begging leper and, repulsed by him, rode on by. Evidently shame seized him and, we’re told, he returned to embrace the begging leper, giving him all the money he had.
Peter and the disciples rejected Jesus’ declaring that his would be the shame of the cross. They couldn’t absorb a messianic redeemer subjected to a public, shameful death. Was this the reason why Jesus displayed his wounds of shame now resplendent in his glorified body? Perhaps gifted, mystic souls like Francis carry that message through bearing the wound marks as stigmata. Perhaps Jesus is telling us simply to lift up our failures to the to the stigma of the Cross? The more we turn over our flinching and failing to Christ in his Passion, we will grow into an authentic unfaltering faith!
It has been said, “Doubt is a first cousin to Faith!” In our pursuit of an unfaltering faith, let us take courage and hope also from St. Paul who reassured the Corinthians, “Power is made perfect in weakness! Therefore I am content with weaknesses, for when I am weak then I am strong!”
- Fr. Lucian Clark, C.P. is the Director of Passionist Volunteers International.