Once there was an older woman who had just traded in her compact car for a newer and larger model. Even though she wasn’t fully used to it yet, she drove her long, beautiful new automobile downtown to go shopping. The only available parking space along the street was barely big enough for her car, but she had remarkable self-assurance, and decided to attempt what appeared impossible. The woman noticed two police officers standing on the sidewalk, watching her, but this didn’t shake her confidence. She shifted into reverse, cut the wheel, and to her own delight and amazement, backed into the parking space perfectly on the first try. When she walked over to the parking meter, one of the policemen was standing there; without saying a word, he took a quarter from his own pocket and inserted it into the meter. Seeing her puzzled expression, the officer explained, “I lost the bet.” As he walked away, the woman called after him, “Blest are they who have not seen and have believed” (Sunday Sermon Treasury of Illustrations, Vol. I, #302).
These, of course, are words from the Gospel of John (20:19-31)—used in a somewhat different and slightly amusing context. One police officer believed a woman could accomplish something very difficult, and his faith was rewarded; the other officer didn’t believe until he personally witnessed it. This small, unimportant incident illustrates a larger principle: life is filled with unexpected opportunities and events, and those who are ready to believe make it possible for themselves to be blessed by them. This is especially true in the most important way of all. Life achieves its greatest value and joy when we place our faith in Jesus.
Each day, the Sacred Scriptures instruct us regarding the rewards and challenges of having faith. In the Acts of the Apostles (5:12-16), we see that Peter and his companions worked wonders through the power of Jesus. Because of the opposition of the authorities, some people were afraid to join them, even though they held the apostles in great esteem, and we can assume they missed out on the blessings God had intended for them. Many others, however, did join the early Church; not only did they discover God’s plan for their lives, but they were also healed of their afflictions. Following Jesus makes life worth living, even though it does involve sacrifice. In the Book of Revelation (1:9-11, 12-13, 17-19), John found himself in exile precisely because of his faith in Jesus; nonetheless, the Lord blessed him with an amazing series of visions, and gave him the opportunity to serve others by sharing the knowledge and truth of what he had seen. Being a disciple of Jesus can be difficult and demanding—but there are no limits to the Lord’s ability to help us and bless us. The only thing necessary for this to happen is faith, and a willingness on our part to let our faith overcome our doubts. I suspect it was God’s plan that Thomas not be present with the other apostles on Easter Sunday; this way the story of his unbelief would show people throughout history that Jesus is not offended by our doubts and questions. The Lord knows it’s hard to live as part of a Christian minority in a world which ignores and even actively opposes our faith. Nevertheless, He lovingly invites us to believe in Him, for this is the only way we’ll find true happiness and purpose in life. If Thomas had never been given the privilege of seeing the Risen Lord, his life, would have turned into a waste or even a tragedy; instead, it became a glorious success. Jesus wants this same thing to be true for us.
Are there people who waste their lives? We know that there are; unfortunately, it happens all the time. Is such a thing necessary or inevitable? Absolutely not. Jesus can make any life, no matter how difficult or disadvantaged, a glorious success: not necessarily in worldly terms, but certainly in heavenly terms—and those are the only standards which matter. God’s grace is all around us, and it can make all the difference in our lives, but many people aren’t willing to believe in it, accept it, or use it. Certainly there are some people who are victims of circumstances and suffering beyond their control, but I believe many persons create their own problems; wasted and tragic lives often occur simply because people won’t believe in God’s love or allow themselves to experience it. We usually can’t see or feel Jesus’ presence, but we can allow ourselves to believe and trust in it—and we are blessed when we do. Jesus gives us strength to bear our burdens; He lets us know our sacrifices are appreciated, and that our efforts will be rewarded. He wants to guide us, protect us, and give us joy even in the midst of our sufferings. Our Lord wants to fill this life with value and meaning, and bring us to the glorious new life that lasts forever. He doesn’t ask us to pretend that life is easy, that we understand everything He’s doing, or that we have no questions; He simply asks us to believe, and—by our example—to help others do the same.
Life has its little surprises, and sometimes we’ll see things we never would have expected: a good deed or kind word from someone we had judged as an uncaring person, or a sudden solution to a difficult problem, or even an older woman miraculously parking her car in a seemingly impossible place. The most important event of all, however, is something we haven’t seen, but believe in because of faith. Jesus is risen, and He greatly desires to share His glorious life with us. If we believe in Him, and live in a way that shows we accept His offer, then we are truly blessed.[hr style=”striped”]
Photo: Fr. Jacques Marquette (1637-1675), Wikipedia