Why Do You Believe

by Fr. Philip Powell, O.P.       March 17, 2016

"If you don’t believe me, believe the works I do." Jesus is sounding very American, very modern, downright pragmatic even! Why the pragmatism? Why the common sense argument based on evidence? Jesus is doing his job as a teacher, as a preacher, and as One Anointed for sacrifice: he is opening every way, every door, any possible avenue to understanding, to knowing who he is and who he is for us. He is giving the crowd what they need to make the jump, to see their blind spots, to hear what they will not hear, to skip around their settled ideological categories and know cleanly the truth of Jesus’ Messianic claim: “I am the Son of God [. . .] the Father is in me and I am in the Father."

At the risk of sounding a little too Baptist, how did you come to know Jesus as Lord? I mean, how did the full awareness, the complete understanding that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One get planted in your head and heart? Think for a moment what you have to believe to be true to draw this astonishing conclusion: you have to believe that there is a God Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that this God is creator, redeemer, and sanctifier of His creation; that the most filial relationship possible between a Father and His children was violated by human disobedience; that centuries of Law, prophets, animal sacrifices, and divine interventions in history and nature failed to bring us back to righteousness; that the second person of the triune God, the Son, took on human flesh in the womb of a virgin and was born a man among us; that he taught the truth of freely abundant mercy, the necessity of repentance and good works, and that he performed sign after sign after sign, pointing unambiguously to his divinity.

This is the historical, theological, philosophical, religious, trail that leads to Jesus’ black and white claim: “I am the Son of God […] the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Why do you believe this claim? Why do you believe the claims that lead to this Messianic claim? None of us saw Jesus walk on water. No one alive now saw him raise the dead or heal the blind. No one here heard his preaching. But many began to believe in him. Why? Because though John himself never performed a sign, everything he said about Jesus was true. John’s witness, his word about Jesus, was true. And the next step is the first step toward cultivating a habit of trust that produces again and again the good fruits of holiness. That step is?

Surrender. To do what the crowd, the Pharisees, the scribes could not do. What Pontius Pilate would not do: accept the opened way, surrender, believe, come to the Father’s love, know Him, and step—one foot after another—into the habit of trust, a life lived steeped in faith, vibrating with the promise of ready abundance, and the fruits of his permanent victory over sin and death. Surrender to what is to come. Jesus enters Jerusalem. He shares one last meal with his friends. He washes their feet. He suffers betrayal. Brutal violence. Denial. Abandonment and death. And we wait. Vigilant. Against the tomb. Almost against hope. And then we hear, just under the wind, a voice say what we have known all along: “I am the Son of God!”

Fr. Philip Powell, O.P.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Fr. Philip Powell, O.P.

Dominican friar and priest, part-time philosopher and poet, full-time Southern Boy with bad taste in movies.

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