This sentence seems to me to be a basic, core truth that illumines
the readings for today:
“This is the work of God, that
you believe in the one he sent.”
Now that’s pretty simple, straightforward, and direct. If
only it weren’t so difficult in practice.
Faith is a tough business. Faith in God, in Christ, in the resurrection,
faith in general—we really have to work at it. We exist in
an environment in which our attention is demanded by any number
of distractions, opportunities, situations, occurrences that test,
set aside, overshadow, dim, or shake our faith. Our faith is derided,
called “illogical,” questioned (by others and ourselves),
dismissed. Yet we hang in there.
We look for signs to prop up our faith. The five thousand had their
loaves and fishes; the disciples had Jesus walking on the sea (what
a sign!) We look for and at things-- like seemingly provident occurrences,
rainbows, crosses, and sunny days to confirm our faith. But what
about when the signs don’t come so easily and quickly? That’s
when it’s tough. That’s when we need faith in and of
itself. That’s when we need to hang tough.
Stephen is hanging tough in today’s reading; he has faith,
in the midst of his accusers. His face, we learn, is “like
I wish you all angelic faces—either to wear or to see—this