The Persistence Of Doubt
Published: June 7, 2012
Every now and then, there are articles in the news that, perhaps, help suspend disbelief in Jesus. For me, they are always secondhand accounts. I have never had a direct experience of them. Recently there was a story about an image of Jesus that was seen on a toasted English muffin. And every so often there are sightings of Jesus in window reflections, in cloud formations, in omelets. Most people dismiss such things. But there are those whose hunger to know Jesus is so aching that they feel assured that Jesus is alive and well and makes his presence known through food items, clouds and windows.
I wonder what those outside our comforting confines of religion think about us. We believe, somewhat sleepily, that Jesus is present in bread and wine. And we believe his is a real presence. No face, no bodily form, but real and true presence.
The church is a motley group of believers. For many of us, belief is a routine response to what we are given as a package deal. Real presence arrives with all the rest of the enterprise that is the church. And so we go through life—most of us not giving much thought to what we are, what we do, what we receive.
I would like to add something to the list.
Eucharist does not exist apart from those who partake of it. The presence of the Lord within us is no different from the presence we partake of in our celebrations. When we share bread and wine, we share at the same time our lives, our hopes, our fears, our highs and lows.
That is a package deal, too. The divine presence cannot be separated from where he felt it right and good to make a permanent home—in the human heart. The divine elements on all the altars of the world have as their living manifestation the lives of those who consume them. Such is the basis of our unity, our likeness to God, our very life in him. We are sustained by the food that is God—and, at once, the food that we are for and through each other.
The disciples struggled with their belief and needed a push by Jesus to wake up and see that he had truly risen and was among them. Soon, they would better understand that he was within them. It would be a late development in their thinking, but a development that had lived with them all along—prior to their reflecting upon it.
So, we look at each other and wonder. One day flows into the next and we, too, try and see through the haze of life’s mists to what is real, what is true, what is present.
I have my doubts about the Jesus of windows, omelets and cloud formations. I do not know why a divine being would appear on a pane of glass.
I do feel at home with the living God within me, even though I do not understand it or even see it.
The English muffin ended up on eBay. I hope some hungry person stole it and ate it, maybe even shared a piece of it. For me, that would be a reflection of God. Kind of like a window—or a mirror.
Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at www.abbeystore.com.