In the midst of this pandemic, we often are terrorized by death. We hear of corpses piled up in makeshift morgues, this stealthy virus entering unsuspecting people and killing them. A despair hangs over the world, causing deep depression.
After Vatican II, we careened from an otherworldly Church that spoke a dead language to a more ‘relevant’ Church that embraced the here and now. We went from an altar against a wall and a priest praying mysteriously and quietly, to an altar facing the people and the priest on center stage.
With the more ‘this worldly’ emphasis, many feel that something essential has been lost. During the tumultuous 60’s, priests left the ministry in droves. The abandonment of the whole area of mystery and the call of the beyond made the priesthood devolve into a kind of social work that could not support the weight of living a celibate life.
This imbalance seems particularly difficult during this enforced solitude engendered in social distancing. More and more people are dying, often outside the reach of the comfort of family and friends. Once you sap away belief in our future glory with Christ, death becomes even more unspeakable.
We are left with a question: Do I really believe that there is a future after death? Really?
Part of the difficulty in thinking through this belief is that any use of the imagination is counterproductive. We don’t know what our future will look like or feel like. All of our vocabulary is earthbound. So, it is hard to put ourselves in a realistic attitude about this.
This is the darkness that permeates this important step of faith, and it is why we have to choose to trust. I use the word ‘choose’ very consciously. We all have understandably intellectual doubts about this. We go from ‘it seems too good to be true’ to ‘maybe this is all made up”. If we rely on our minds and thoughts, we will be lost. It is the will that must act.
Let’s say that we are on a journey and we arrive at a crossroads. We could go straight or make a left or make a right. We think we know where these choices will take us, but we are not sure. The mind cannot resolve the difficulty. You remember that someone told you to hang a right when you got to the crossroad.Or was that a left? Your mind is paralyzed since it has nothing to say to you. What to do?
Clearly, you must choose and then hope you made the right decision. The mind cannot help you and neither can the memory. One must make a decision and live that decision out.
Thus, is faith. The mind cannot help us. It will just leave us standing there. We must choose the way to go and then put one foot forward and go the way we have chosen.
I choose to believe in God. I choose to believe in Christ. I choose to believe in Eternal Life. And I choose to live my life according to the precepts of the Church even though I have doubts. Especially because I doubt.
When people say that they cannot believe in God, they are making an intellectual assumption. No matter how difficult it is for our minds to accept that there is a God and that there is life after death, we can still choose to believe in Him. While there are no scientific proofs of God’s existence, there is a preponderance of inferences and probabilities that suggest that it is not irrational to believe. But we must use our wills and stake our ground and make the gamble.
Blaise Pascal, a philosopher, scientist, and engineer, called this the ‘wager theory’. If you choose not to believe and I do, when we both die and if there is no God, we just both go into oblivion. But if there is a God, you may perhaps unpleasantly (or pleasantly?) be surprised!
So, during this pandemic, let us choose to believe in God and let the cards fall where they may. What we may find is that, once we accept Him, doors and paths heretofore unknown may beckon and the intellect will catch up with the will and we will begin to see things in a radically different way. Faith always seeks understanding. But understanding can never get to Faith unless I choose to take the leap!