In case you are one of the five people on earth who has not yet viewed the trailer for the new Star Wars movie, let me tell you about its short exposition of why we believe Holy Scripture even though we did not personally hear Jesus speak, have not had our cancer cured by His touch, or put our hand into the wound in His side.
In the new movie, The Force Awakens, it is some years, some decades since the Rebel Alliance fought the evil Galactic Empire. Obi Wan, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker are at best dim memories for most folks. Rey, a young girl who, evidently, is to become a Jedi Knight, has heard about The Force and the Jedi Knights. She wonders if all she has heard are only stories? She tells an aging Han Solo “There are stories about what happened.” Han realizes she is using the word “story” as if to say “just stories.” He tells her: “It is true, All of it.” This is sufficient for her. With this actual eyewitness, and what she knows about him, Han Solo saying it is true is a good enough reason to believe.
Do we each have our own Han Solo? Why does anyone believe what the Catholic Church believes and teaches? In terms of some of science and in terms of the logic and the reasoning of many agnostics and atheists, much of Church teaching and dogma is simply BS – baloney stories. Yet millions have in the past and millions today do believe “all of it”.
There are a few, a very few people, John Henry Newman comes to mind, who are such intellectual giants that they study all the history, all the Scripture, all the writings of the church fathers and the doctors of the church, and they conclude, primarily from a viewpoint of logic and reason, that the Catholic Church is the one true Church, that Jesus is God, and that the Church teachings are true. These people are very rare.
Most of us, true believers, believe because we were given the gift of faith and we had a Han Solo in our lives. That person had someone in their lives, and so on and so on, back to that new follower around the year 60 A.D. who said to an Apostle “Is this just a story? How do I know it is true?”
This Apostle would have told a catechumen that he saw Jesus Christ with his own eyes and heard Him with his own ears, and touched Him with his own hands. The Apsotle would recount how he personally saw the miracles, heard the Sermon on the Mount and witnessed the passion and death of Jesus (e.g., see Acts 10:38-43; 2 Pet 1:16-19; 1 Jn 1:1-4; Jn 2-:26-31; Lk 1:1-4; Rev 22:8). But there would be more – otherwise, with an alleged testimony alone, there would be no reason to believe what was heard. The “more” were the lives, and the deaths, of the Apostles and of those who had seen the Lord. In daily acts of love and kindness, and in most cases by their own deaths as martyrs, the Apostles and the first Christians would “prove” that what they said was the truth and that Jesus was the Truth.
It was the same for me. First and foremost, my mother not only told me the “stories,” not only prayed with me, she loved me every moment. And then I was blest with nuns who drilled the catechism into me; nuns who lived with vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; nuns whose lives to kids like me were simply lives of service to us and love, some of us the urhciest of all urchins. (Mother Xavier and Mother Cabrini of the Brigidines, thank you; Sister Mary Margaret of the Incarnate Word, forgive me.)
Blessings continued on in high school when incredibly real men, the manliest of men, the “missionaries to the most difficult missions” tried to evangelize me – the brothers and priests of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. They did not just say it, they lived a resounding “It is all true,” and the blessings to me cannot be measured. And so it continued in college with the service to me of the brothers and priests of the Society of Mary. I have come to realize that God knew His gift of faith to me had to be energized with His gift of these folks who by their lives told, and sometimes shouted to me, the Truth.
Following college and later education, throughout my life I have been blest with Han Solos at every turn. Not just those ordained and those in vows, but teachers, co-workers, friends, and mere acquaintances – like the guy who changed my oil, the lady at the highway toll booth, the man who sharpened my knives – who, by the way they treat me and the way they love me, tell me another part of the story. For some of them, the only connection I have are words on the Internet – but the story is the same, the love is the same, and the truth is true.
“Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Jn 20:29). For me, as I am sure for many, if we are at all blest because of belief, even though we have not seen, it is because others lived the story of Jesus and His Church, and they lived it for us. It is because the love of others has proved that this “story” is all true.
Copyright © 2015 Guy McClung