The Miracle from Faith
A mutual college friend of ours texted my wife the other day with a Christmas gift question. Her son, a freshman at an elite university, wanted a copy of Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov for Christmas.
“All his friends are reading it. What’s all the hype? What’s it about? Dave reads a lot. Is he familiar with it?”
Halleluiah! I thought. Literature is alive and well!
Seemingly each new generation re-discovers this novel, published in 1880. I discovered it, too, early in college. It appeals to the intensity of young people, who are trying to discover what they believe, and why. But more on the novel later.
In the gospel for today, a crowd gathers to hear Jesus teach. In the crowd are some Pharisees, whose role as the Guardians of the Establishment compel them to vet this newcomer’s ideas. A paralyzed man is so desperate to witness this magnetic new teacher that some friends hoist his pallet up to a roof and then lower him at the feet of Jesus.
The gospel doesn’t say why the paralyzed man was so insistent on seeing Jesus. This squares with my own observations; people can tell you a lot about what they believe, but not as much about why. In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan, an intellectual, can explain his reasons for his atheism far better than Alyosha, the young, saintly protagonist, can explain his reasons for believing.
That being said, faith has a power of connection that defies rationalizing. Alyosha is one of the few characters in The Brothers Karamazov that others genuinely admire and seek out for advice, due to his sincere, cheerful faith amongst a society of sin and scandal. In the gospel, Jesus rewards the paralyzed man’s faith with a miracle, which uplifts and energizes the crowd. Conversely, Ivan’s ruthless skepticism only leads him to despair, while the miracles Jesus consistently offers to the skeptical Pharisees yields not faith, but resentment at being challenged.
At one point in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky says it best:
Faith does not spring from the miracle but the miracle from faith.
Mr. David Brumfield, English Teacher
Each day during the season of Advent, you will find advent reflections from faculty and students at Christian Brothers College High School. To find all the reflections, go to our Advent Reflections page.