On the news last night I heard a story about why young people are leaving the Church. According to recent research, young people are giving up on faith because it does not “square with” science. They are looking for proof that God exists. Without it, they are unwilling to “believe.”
In the reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians which we hear today, St. Paul writes: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.’ Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith” (I Corinthians 1:18-21). Pay attention to that last sentence. The world did not come to know God through wisdom even though the self-revelation of God continued from Abraham until the time of Jesus. The revelation that we received in Jesus took the opposite tack. Instead of wisdom, Jesus acted foolishly. He allowed himself to be convicted and executed to reveal just how much God loves us.
Modern science, modern philosophy, modern knowledge of every kind has not been able reveal God’s love for us any more powerfully than that sacrifice on Calvary. The self-revelation of God has continued to be a revelation that finds itself holding up the love is expressed by sacrifice. We can only come to faith in God by suspending our expectations, be they scientific or philosophical, and gazing at the crucifix.
Those of us who are members of CUSA cling to the notion that we are called to continue revealing God in our weakness, in our willingness to bear the cross of chronic illness or disability, so that God’s wisdom is made visible. Just as Jesus willingly gave himself up for our sakes, we join with that crucified Savior, bonded by a common thread. We suffer for a purpose.
There will always be excuses for failing to believe. We tend to be selfish, always looking out for ourselves. Imagine where we would be if that had been Jesus’ response. However, rather than think of himself, Jesus put our needs first and sacrificed his very life for our sakes. The U.S. Military awards heroic acts of courage and self-sacrifice with medals and accolades. I have watched many a ceremony in which the Congressional Medal of Honor is bestowed on men who have displayed unbelievable courage. In every instance, the recipient usually says something to the effect that he has done nothing compared to the sacrifice of those who gave their very lives. Each time one such person is honored, it reminds me of the fact that Jesus did the same for me.
Believing in God has nothing to do with science or wisdom. Faith in God is learned through sacrifice. The Gospels were written at a time when Christians were persecuted for their faith. We have been witness to some who have given their lives because of their faith recently in the Middle East. We have seen a Catholic priest slain at the altar in a village in France. These sacrifices continue to be part of God’s self-revelation.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator