In my job as a counselor there have been many times over the years when I have had a conversation with a client that goes something like this:
The wife says, "I know he loves me, but somehow I just can't believe it. Look at me, how could he love this?" Or, he says, "She tells me all the time that she loves me, but I don't get it, I don't feel loved."
My response is usually to encourage them to take the leap of faith, to trust the words and actions of their spouse, and to allow their belief to open the door to a change in their experience.
St. Augustine taught, "Believe that you may understand." Understanding is often not possible without the initial act of faith, receiving the Word and allowing it to accomplish its purpose within us.
That certainly was the case for Abram. The Lord tells Abram, an aging childless man, that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in heaven. "And he believed the Lord."
'Look to the heavens and count the stars. . . . So shall your descendants be.'
The promise he was given made no sense. Sarai was already decades past her childbearing years so it was only by faith that Abram was able to accept the promise he was given.
The readings this Sunday are filled with examples of events and promises that are impossible to understand with a human scientific mindset. Paul tells us that Jesus will "transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory."
Peter, James and John see Moses and Elijah appearing with the transfigured Christ. What kind of an explanation can we create for these events?
Science cannot explain all things, and our intellect cannot grasp all truth. We must begin with the choice, the decision to believe. If we require understanding before we accept and believe God's promises, we may never experience God's love.
So what is it we are to believe about ourselves, about our value, about God's love for us? As in so many other ways, God gives us a glimpse of the truth through creation, through the physical order.
I think of watching my granddaughter, not yet two, running and squealing with delight at the sheer intensity of connection and engagement as we run and chase and hide. She is filled with absolute trust in her parents, that they will catch her if she leaps, find her if she hides, comfort her if she is in distress.
They, on their part, pour out their love in free self-giving, always faithful, never forgetting this child, never turning away in their hearts in the face of her willfulness or disobedience, not requiring a return of affection in order to continue loving.
That is a glimpse of how we are loved by God. We cannot be forgotten.
I'm sure I'm not alone in sometimes feeling like that husband or wife who longs to experience the love of the beloved but somehow can't quite believe it is possible. "Look at me, how could God love this?"
When we choose to believe, turning often and more quickly to that love, it becomes possible to receive, experience and be motivated to do our part in conforming our lives to God's ways. Ultimately perhaps we will, as St. Augustine affirms, understand.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)