I'm a believer
Feast Day of Thomas (3 July)
by Paul Hess
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To demonstrate that belief is not irrational – it gives us inspiration and hope.
Preparation and materials
- If possible, show the YouTube clip at www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUyu5prWjTE, which features the song ‘I’m a believer’ by The Monkees, performed by Smash Mouth, as part of a compilation of clips from the film Shrek.
- I thought love was only true in fairy tales
Meant for someone else but not for me . . .
Disappointment haunted all my dreams . . .
Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer.
- It is easy to see why this song, ‘I’m a Believer’ by The Monkees, was chosen for the soundtrack to the first Shrek film. The reason we love Shrek is because it is about someone overcoming great obstacles to fulfil his dreams. Shrek is an ogre, shunned by everyone, who therefore does not believe it will ever be possible for him to find love. Then he meets his princess – and then he’s a believer!
- Belief in the possibility of love did not come easily to Shrek. For us, too, overcoming our doubts in order to believe can often be a struggle. In Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll expresses the struggle to believe in a rather humorous way:
Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.' ‘I dare say you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was younger, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
- At first glance, it seems Carroll is criticizing religious belief here and putting forward the idea that belief requires us to set aside rational and scientific knowledge. Indeed, many people do think that to hold religious belief, you have to switch off your brain!
If we read a little more closely, however, we can see that Alice is not saying we should not believe at all. Rather, she is saying that we should think carefully and critically about what we believe.
- Most people have beliefs in or about something, but it is important that they are not blind. We have to be critical of our own beliefs and the beliefs of others. Unquestioning belief can be very dangerous and can hardly be said to be genuine.
- As young people living in today’s world, you are unlikely to accept beliefs – religious or otherwise – without scrutinizing them and demanding evidence. That does not destroy belief – rather, it makes for stronger, more authentic belief.
- The Queen’s words bring out another hugely significant aspect of belief. It is not irrational, but there is something about it that encourages us to think beyond what appear to us as boundaries and limitations. Belief encourages us to imagine and dream about what appears to be impossible now.
- Many people who were faced with the horror and brutality of the Nazi regime from the 1930s to the 1940s were in the grip of despair, but a famous Christian pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who gave up his life in the struggle against Hitler, continued to believe.
I believe that God can and intends to let good spring from everything, even from what is most evil. For this he needs human beings, who know how to turn all things to the good.
- Sometimes we are faced with great obstacles in our own lives – conflict with our friends, family break-up, stress, worries about school and so on – and we think that it is impossible to find a solution. Yet, even in those situations, if we persevere, a way forward often seems to open up.
- At the heart of faith is the belief that, while there are very rarely easy answers to life’s great problems, ‘with God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19.26, NIV). There is always a reason to believe.
Time for reflection
On 3 July, the Church celebrates the feast day of Thomas. Thomas is an attractive figure because, as for many of us, belief did not come easily to him. When the other disciples told him they had seen the risen Jesus, he did not believe them and demanded proof (John 20.25–28, NKJV):
So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days his disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
Help us to be honest, like Thomas, about the things that stop us from believing.
Grant us greater belief, so we may have the faith that moves mountains.