By Billy Beauchesne (Rated G)
“No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.” – John 4:12-18
Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.” – Mark 6: 45-52
These two small verses so succinctly summarize the Truth and challenge of our faith, allowing us to be drawn to perfection, through our imperfections.
“No one has ever seen God.” Fact: We are called to believe in something that no human has ever seen, in the history of creation. Fact: We are called to believe in what we can’t see; God. This act is called faith. The second part of this verse says, “Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.” This calls us to love one another, essentially because God is love. Through this very act, we are able to see God, not Himself, but tangebly through either our acts of love or those of others. But still, we do not see God Himself.
In Mark 6: 45-52, the disciples had just recently experienced, first hand, the miracle of Jesus feeding the masses of five thousand men with merely five loves and two fish, and then collecting twelve wicker baskets full of leftover fragments. Not only did they experience this miracle, but they took part in this miracle. They were the ones who scrounged to collect the initial five loaves and two fish, and they were the ones who collected the twelve wicker baskets of leftover fragments. This is not merely an analogy of “feeding people with faith or words”, these five thousand men physically consumed the bread and fish.
Next, these disciples saw, with their own eyes, Jesus, the son of God, walking on water. At first, they doubted and thought it was a ghost. But then Jesus exclaimed, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” He then got into the boat with them. The disciples were “completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.” They had not understood the incident of the loaves though they had been there. They collected the initial bread and fish. They collected the leftover fragments. Their hearts were hardened. The disciples who physically took part in the miracle had their hearts hardened when they saw Jesus walk on water and come into their boat?
There is one miracle act of Jesus present in all four Gospels, and that is multiplying the fish and loaves. We may question all we want, but this was not just a representation of “feeding people”. They physically ate, and there were leftovers collected by the disciples; nonetheless, the disciples’ hearts, even after taking part in this miracle, were hardened. This story and our struggles may align with our struggles believing in the actual presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; much like the Eucharist is not merely a representation of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ.
So here we have it. The disciples who took part in this miracle and saw the Son of God walk on water not only did not understand, but had their hearts hardened.
Let’s take a moment to fast forward this story. Jesus is crucified and all but one of the disciples is martyred and lays down his life in support of Jesus Christ claiming to be the Son of God? This provides all the answers we need. Was Jesus just a magician performing tricks? Did he walk on a sandbar? Do the readings imply “spiritual food” rather than actual food? The answer is a resounding no. Would the disciples have not immediately abandoned this lunatic?
There is something missing, something that we cannot explain. If all of these stories are false, these men would not have given their lives. Yes, they questioned. Yes, they struggled with their faith. They struggled with their faith and had the incredible experience of meeting the Son of God themselves. So what was it? How did they hit a devastating low of not understanding these miracles, having their hearts hardened, but rebound to gain belief enough to lay down their lives for the Truth of Jesus Christ? The answer is Truth. The answer is God. No matter how much we don’t understand concepts in our life, no matter how hard they are to believe or live by, there is an absolute Truth that no one can deny, and Truth is the Truth of God.
Faith is a journey. “No one has ever seen God.” But the disciples themselves experienced miracles first hand and then had their hearts hardened, only to rebound with such vigor and passionate belief in the Truth as to lay down their lives. May we stay strong in our journey of faith, during the dark times, struggles, and times of question. May we take comfort in knowing that even the disciples struggled with belief, yet by the end of this story of salvation, each one of them experienced something through Jesus Christ strong enough to overcome all of the doubt and lay down their lives for the Truth.
In this world of doubt, spiritual dryness, struggle with faith, or even questioning the existence of God himself, what have you experienced in your own life that holds you to the Truth of God?