— “Be it done unto you according to your faith” (Mt.8:13)
— “Your faith has saved you” (Mt.9:22)
— “Be it done unto you according to your faith” (Mt.9:29)
— (To Peter, who had a sinking feeling …) “Man of little faith, why did you doubt ?” (Mt.14:31)
— “Woman, your faith is great. Be it done unto you according to your desire” (Mt.15:28)
— “In truth I tell you, if you have faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mountain ‘Move from here to there’ and it would move : nothing would be impossible for you” (Mt.17:20)
— “If you do not become like little children (‘who believe in Me’ – Mt.18:6), you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt.18:3)
— “If you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what was done to this fig-tree, but if you say to this mountain ‘Go back and throw yourself into the sea’, that will happen. Everything that you ask for in prayer, you will receive” (Mt.21:21-22)
Those eight quotations are what Jesus said about faith in the Gospel of Matthew. He kept repeating Himself, apparently afraid people might miss His point or not take Him at His word : if you believe enough, you can do anything : get your cancer cured, walk on water, move mountains, you name it ! You just have to believe, like a child.
We all know about the Placebo Effect. And we have all practised wishful thinking. But Jesus is telling us solemnly, without hyperbole or rhetoric … “YES, you CAN !” It was bad, and sad, enough that He believed it Himself; it is worse, and more pathetic, that many people still do. Naturally they need a back-up explanation when things don’t work out quite the way they hoped and expected : “God works in mysterious ways. He must have known it would have done me (or my dead baby …), more harm than good. I not only believe Him; I believe IN Him – I trust Him; He knows best.” (Don’t forget to pick up your brain from the cloak-room.)
No way one can argue with such a closed (empty ?) mind. If your prayer is answered, “Hallelujah !” If it’s not, “Thank you, Jesus, for doing what’s best for me”. Such iron-bound credulity makes attempts at rational discussion pointless.
But this naïve confidence, charming and touching in a child, is shared by adult believers who take Jesus seriously and “become as little children” (Mt.18:3). An engineer and would-be Catholic apologist, in an attempt to counter my attacks against credulity, recently told me, in writing : Our reasoning is “imperfect”; “faith is additionally needed”. The expression is clumsy but the thought is clear. Echoing the nonsense in Pope John Paul 2’s encyclical “Faith and Reason”, he seriously suggests not only that faith can move mountains but that it is a necessary source of truth, to complete that which we acquire through reason. Luckily Jesus told us what we must believe. And He is God’s Son, isn’t He ? He told us so Himself.
I know a catechist in Sydney who is planning on relocating Australia’s highest, albeit modest, mountain from Kosciusko to Katoomba. Melbournites won’t be happy (it’s halfway between the two capitals), but my friend feels it’s all in a good cause. He wants to organize Bible-camps in the snow-country but finds Mount Kosciusko too far. It would be so much more convenient, and economical, at Katoomba, just 100 kms from Sydney. Moreover, he feels the best time would be January, during the long Summer school holidays. So he is not only going to get Jesus to move the mountain; he is going to get Him to make it snow, heat-wave or no heat-wave. The kids will have fun in the snow as they learn about the fires of Hell.