Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
How easy it is to doubt. We live in a generation which often prides itself on being skeptical. No one is going to make a fool out of me. I can only trust myself. If I’m skeptical I won’t be disappointed. Even in our relationship with God it can be easy not to trust, to doubt that God really loves us, that God can truly help us.
The scribes too found it hard to trust in God’s power and mercy. They say, “This man blasphemes” because no one but God can forgive sins and Jesus calls them on their disbelief saying, “Which is easier…to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘Get up and walk’?” It is indeed easier to say “Get up and walk”; this can be immediately tested and accepted. For the scribes to accept that Jesus can forgive sins is to believe that he is indeed God, that he indeed has the power to do as he says.
In this section of the Gospel, Matthew shows us sign after sign of Jesus’ power. In our reading on Tuesday, Jesus calms the storm and the Apostles ask “What sort of man is this whom even the winds and the sea obey?” This was followed by the casting out of the demons of the men of Gadarenes, which we didn’t hear because of the Solemnity yesterday, the people do not recognize Jesus but the demons call him the “Son of God”. Today, after Jesus heals the paralytic, the people rejoice that God had given such authority to human beings. Jesus calms the storm, he casts out demons, he heals the paralyzed, he clearly possesses power that rightfully belongs to God and yet they still doubt, they still have “little faith”.
In our own lives, Jesus continues to give us sign after sign of his mercy and faithfulness – yet when a new trial enters our lives we wonder “Can we trust God to help us now?” When we hear the words of Jesus spoken by the priest do we truly believe that our sins have been forgiven?
As Douglas Adams said, “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” If Jesus continues to show powers that belong solely to God – that he can control storms as only God can, that he casts out demons as only God can, that he heals as only God can - it’s a pretty good bet that Jesus is God. And when Jesus forgives sins and has given this power to his Church, should we not believe when the priest says “Your sins are forgiven”? Let us no longer doubt, but believe.
Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne