In a 1994 movie by the name of “Priest” (rated R and still available from NETFLIX), there is a riveting scene in which the young priest is venting his anger and frustration as he shouts at the figure of Jesus on the large crucifix on his study wall. The cause of his anguish is that he has learned in the confessional from a teenage girl that she is being routinely violated by her father but will not give the priest permission to report the matter even to her mother and certainly not to the authorities. He is left with no alternative but to remain silent under the seal of the sacrament. In his ranting at the crucified Jesus he accuses him of smugness and indifference to the terrible plight of the young victim. He asks, Why are you not doing something? Why aren’t you stopping this unspeakable crime? Don’t you care?
There’s a great truth contained and powerfully expressed in that unforgettable sequence. What it proclaims is that our commitment of trust in Jesus has everything to do with simply waiting in patience — often waiting in darkness and not knowing what, if anything, is happening. When we’ve done all that we possibly can and are still not able to change a painful situation – for ourselves or for others, when we seem to have reached the very nadir of discouragement, it is then that we have to believe that the compassionate Jesus, however hidden from us, is working toward a solution, a resolution, and all that is required of us is to wait in patient (sometimes painful) expectation.
That’s the real test of our faith: our personal relationship with Jesus. When things are going smoothly for us, when we are in good control of our lives and what is happening around us, we may feel no need for God or for Jesus. But when we experience soul-bruising turbulence, when calamities of the worst kind make their appearance, when even our closest relationships seem lifeless or hostile, and we don’t know what to do to make things better – or have given up trying, that’s when the quality and depth of our faith in Jesus is proven. One of the worst such moments in my life was when a grandniece of mine was brought home a few days after her birth diagnosed as blind – mistakenly, it later turned out.
Jesus himself must have come close to despair. On that torturous cross he cried out, “Father, have even you abandoned me?” It must have been a feeling of complete loneliness, the experience of a stranger all alone in the realm of death. We may not be able to understand fully what he was going through, but we can perceive that he resolutely waited and did not stop trusting, believing, and hoping. And all the while, God was active, changing death into life.
The gospel we heard today is about Jesus’ pledge of permanent presence to us: as he is one with the Father, so will he be one with us, he promises. Always – in good times and in bad; when we are faithful, but also when we are unfaithful; assisting us when we can be effective with just a little help, but also supplying for us when we are powerless. He promises to live in and among us today, tomorrow, always, unconditionally.
We’re supposed to know this fact of our life and to act out of it, believing in it even when we cannot find a shred of evidence that it is true.
“I pray, Father, that the world may believe that you sent me – that you love them – that we live in them.”