This actually has happened to me. A man, an honest man, approached me and said that he didn’t believe in the Eucharist. First I wanted to convince him, but for some reasons a different thought occurred to me. I gave him the Story of the Soul, which is the autobiography of the Little Flower, St Therese of the Child Jesus. The Saint who is known for her joyful attitude and kind smile experienced in her life such faith doubts that she confessed that she could understand atheists. I said to the man: “Read it and make friends with her.”
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! We understand when people get injured physically or even emotionally. We understand easily stories like that of the Good Samaritan. However we can forget that people can get injured spiritually as well. That their faith may suffer like that of the lost son, someone who lost his faith in the closest person possible, his own father. Was the father bad? Was he dysfunctional? Was he abusive? Nothing of the sort. Something happened in the boy that he imagined his happiness away from his father. Something injured his faith in his father. What was this something? How many times I have heard from people whose relationships were broken because someone else poisoned their minds and hearts with doubts about their loved ones. The beginning of the Bible gives us also such a story. The story of the evil one, who like the snake, and the Bible pictures him as a snake, punctured not the physical body of Adam and Eve but their soul with the poison of doubt regarding God. Is there antivenom? Well, there is. Every Sunday before we place the gifts of bread and wine on the altar we profess: “I believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” Even if the way we say it is similar to: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty… I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ… I believe in the Holy Spirit...” we don’t believe in the Church the way we believe in God. We rather believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the churchy way, in the way the Church has believed. This is the meaning “I believe in the Church.” It also means that we don’t believe just for ourselves but also as Church we believe in order to carry those who struggle in their faith. The faith of the community of believers is the antivenom offered to those who struggle in their faith. Today’s first reading is a powerful example of such a case. Moses is the symbol of those who believe and his faith in God saved the whole community who went astray. The father from the Gospel depicts another aspect of such a community. He is a symbol of the community those who go astray can always return to.
My Dear Friends! When Jesus spoke about the little flock, he envisaged that the faith in God would never go extinct. There will be always Christians who will preserve crystal clear faith in God like Moses. There will always be Christians whose openness to welcome the lost in faith is evident like the openness of the father of the prodigal son.
My Dear Fellow Believers! The story of the prodigal son walking away from his father keeps being repeated in so many people we know who walk away from God. They are spiritually injured. The Church we are will be always the home they can return to. The antivenom they can reach for. That’s why don’t feel embarrassed when people call you churchy. On the contrary think about that scene from the Gospel of John when Jesus was speaking about giving people his Body and Blood to be consumed. Many left him then saying that his speech was hard. When Jesus asked the Apostles whether they wanted to leave Peter answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Because of their faith and the faith of so many generations of believers we do have the Church we can come to now. Because of our faith there will be the Church for others to come to.
Last year there was a story of a disabled man who climbed a mountain in Canada. Actually he didn’t climb it. He was carried to the top by his friends. I just wonder how many people get to heaven because of support, encouragement, inspiration and prayers of fellow believers. It may not be reported in media but it is an integral part of the Church, to carry those who doubt and struggle in their faith.