It’s amazing how sometimes a chance remark or a word spoken in jest can lead one to think something anew or with a fresh point of view.
Father Ignatius was helping with the dismantling of the Nativity scene in church and putting away the various statues safely for use the following Christmas. One of the helpers lifted the statue of the Virgin Mary and remarked: “Look at her face. She looks sad. It’s as if she knew what was to happen to Jesus when He grew up.”
“She’s probably tired after giving birth,” replied another helper.
“No … she looks sad, not tired. Do you think she knew that Jesus would be crucified Father?”
Father Ignatius sat down on a nearby chair.
“I think we need a rest, at least I know I do …” he said.
The other helpers stopped for a while.
“It’s a good question you ask …” continued the priest, “many people have argued about the Virgin Mary over the years, and no doubt will continue to do so. Not everyone holds her in such high regards as we do. Some see her as a woman who gave birth to the Son of God, and just that.
Father Ignatius was in the Sacristy tidying up after morning’s Mass when one of his parishioners came in and asked if he could have a quick chat. Being quite approachable, the priest glanced quickly at his watch and agreed to spend a few minutes with the young man, in his mid-twenties.
“Father … I’m losing my Faith …” was the abrupt introduction.
Father Ignatius said nothing, encouraging the young man to continue with a nod. “I’ve been a Christian all my life, but there are times when I’m totally confused. I ask myself whether God really exists … whether it’s all real … or just some invention. I wonder whether God … Jesus and the whole of Christianity have just been invented over the years by society … just to regulate itself … I sometimes find it a real struggle to believe that God exists … but the more I try to believe the more I doubt.”
“I don’t blame you,” replied the priest, and this had the desired effect of gaining the young man’s full attention.
“We’re living in difficult times,” continued Father Ignatius, “times of confusion, half-truths and miss-information. The world is in financial crisis and turmoil. People are losing their jobs and their livelihoods. They fear for the future. Nothing seems as it should be. It is no wonder people get confused and don’t know what to believe anymore. And in their confusion and daily worries they can’t keep their focus on God. They hear and read so many conflicting stories they don’t know what to think anymore … to the point where they even start doubting God’s very existence.
"You’re not the only one who came to me recently saying what you’ve just said. That you doubt God exists.”
“Oh …” said the man.
“When the Jews left Egypt, they were confused too …” the priest went on, “they had left the relative safety of slavery behind them, where they were fed and watered, and here they were, going round in circles in the desert following a man promising them jam tomorrow … or was it milk and honey?”
The young man smiled.
“So they rebelled against Moses. They didn’t want to believe in His God, leading them to safety. Despite what they had seen that God did for them … dividing the sea so they could cross safely, sending food from Heaven and so on … they still doubted and rebelled. They were more interested in placing their Faith in a statue made of solid gold. At least this was something they could see and touch and admire!
“Years later we read in the Bible about other people doubting and in confusion … just as you feel right now.