Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Patrick CullinanAugust 05, 2022
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Patrick Cullinan

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for

and evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1-2)

It turns out that St. Paul, like myself, would likely have been a fan of the early-2000s TV show, “The West Wing.” He, like me, must have enjoyed the 20th episode of the fourth season, “Evidence of Things Not Seen,” in which, among other things, the President navigates enduring Cold War tensions with Russia, a gunman fires on the White House and C.J. tries to convince her coworkers that she can balance an egg on its base at precisely midnight on the equinox.

The evidence of things not seen, in this episode, is C.J.’s comical belief in the magical powers of the vernal equinox on the equilibrium of chicken eggs. The disbelief and mockery of her friends, however, would have been very familiar to Paul, living as he did in a time when Christian claims of miraculous transformations, healings and resurrections would have struck most as plainly ridiculous, even contemptible.

It’s familiar to me, too, as I have been on both sides of that contempt. When I was younger, though I remained a Christian, I refused to accept miracles, on the common objection that “if God would heal this broken leg, why wouldn’t he heal that one?” and a strict allegiance to the empiricism that dominates the scientific thinking of our times. I took the Thomas Jefferson approach to the Bible, cutting out (though not literally, as he did) all references to miracles in the Gospels, contently certain that evidence is limited to things seen.

I noticed that those people who do believe in miracles seem to be happier. Holier. I wanted to be like them.

Now, however, I am certain of exactly the opposite, and I have been the recipient of more than a little of that contempt which I once so happily doled out for those fools who believe in miracles. It’s not fun to be mocked, and often enough I feel a burning desire to argue or to ridicule my accusers in turn. The tough thing about that (in addition to it not being a very Christian response) is that I have no leg to stand on. It is ridiculous to believe in water turning into wine. It is bizarre to believe that God would cure some people and not others.

I didn’t change my mind about miracles because I witnessed one—and I don’t expect I ever will (though I hope I might). Instead, I simply noticed that those people who do believe in miracles seem to be happier. Holier. I wanted to be like them. I had tried cynicism, and I concluded that it hadn’t led me any closer to God. Much better, I thought, was to be a “fool for Christ,” as Paul puts it in another epistle. Much better to revel in the ridiculousness of this faith and to simply trust in the realization of what I hope for and the evidence of things I cannot see.

And if “The West Wing” can be believed, that faith will be rewarded. At the end of the episode, with the international negotiations resolved and the White House shooter detained, all that remains is the question of the egg. As the hands of the clock approach midnight, C.J. takes up her egg, balances it carefully, holds her breath and releases it. Her faith, it turns out, was true: The egg stands.

More: Scripture

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

Houses are submerged in flood waters in Lokoja, Nigeria, Oct.13, 2022. More than half of the 36 states of the country are affected. More than 600 people have died, with more than 1.4 million people displaced. (CNS photo/Afolabi Sotunde, Reuters)
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria launched a campaign that aims to plant 5.5 million trees over the next five years to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Ekpali SaintJune 01, 2023
a priest stands behind an altar, the camera looks from the area where the tabernacle is, out onto the congregation. only one person sits in the pews in front of the priest, signifying the low number of people attending church.
Ireland is becoming less religious, and the percentage of residents who identify as Catholic is down to 69% according to census data. More people identify with "no religion" than in previous years.
Catholic Pope baptizes a baby in a gilded font
The statistical yearbook noted “a general downward trend in the relative number of baptisms, following closely the trend in the birthrate in most countries.”
While the path to creating a great story about Jesus is filled with good intentions, there are also a lot of landmines.
Jim McDermottJune 01, 2023