When Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe?” she immediately responded without hesitance “Yes Lord I believe!” The ability to respond in such a manner does not come easily if there is not a prior relationship that has developed over a period of time. Martha was able to say yes I believe because she knew Jesus and Jesus knew her. The gospel of John tells us that Jesus was a friend to Lazarus and one can only assume that he was also a friend of Martha and Mary.
The dictionary defines the word believe as to accept something as true and genuine. Martha knew Jesus to be true and genuine not only of the words he had used during his preaching but also by his actions. In other words, Jesus’ track record speaks for itself. Jesus did not have to go out to the crowds and cajole people to believe in him… the crowds came to believe in him simply by his actions and not because Jesus had a slogan or a motto. In order to believe in someone, there has to be not only knowledge of the person but also the relationship had withstood the test of time especially through difficult moments.
Every year at the Easter Vigil celebration, we are asked to renew our faith and the questions that follow the renunciation of evil and sin begins with “Do you believe…?” Though the questions deal with the articles of our faith, they are not merely statements to be repeated. If we look beyond the statements, they actually define our relationship with God, Church, society and ourselves.
To believe in someone requires a great amount of trust and faith is about trusting in God, the Church, human society and ourselves included. There are many things that we do not understand and outcomes that are beyond our control but that does not mean we stop believing because when we stop believing, we lose hope and when we lose hope, we lose the desire to live. As one author put it, hope is a precious commodity.
That is why when we profess our faith by saying I believe… it is not just renewing a faith that has been handed down or uttering just the articles of our faith. This is about the renewing of a relationship – the renewal of a covenant that was initiated by God. It is when this relationship with God grows that the meaning of the Creed becomes personal. Or else it becomes purely a recitation with no emotions and personal meaning. It is quite easy for it to become mundane because in most of our churches the Creed is projected on the screen for all to read…it no longer becomes spontaneous and from the heart. Let us not reduce our beliefs to pure recitation but make it a response to the initiative of God who has come to love us.
God chooses us, not because we believe, but that we may believe. – St Augustine