Imagine that!

Published October 5, 2019, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Fr. Rolando V. Dela Rosa, O.P.

In today’s gospel, the apostles ask Jesus: “Increase our faith.” And He replies: “If you have a faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:5-10). Jesus is actually telling them: “Do you want greater faith? Use your imagination.”

At the heart of faith is imagination. When Jesus taught his disciples, he seldom employed cold and rigorous reasoning to prove that His words were objectively true and rationally compelling. Jesus inspired people to believe in Him by using metaphor, mythical and poetic language, especially in His sayings and parables.

Imagination allows us to look beyond aspects of reality that our reason often ignores or dismisses lightly. It empowers us to hear, taste, smell, and even touch things that are not visible. When nourished by faith, imagination enables us to envision possibilities and to work towards realizing them. By using our imagination, we worship in faith the true God that “no one has ever seen or can see” (1Timothy 6:16).

Millions of people have seen the movie series “The Chronicles of Narnia” but very few know that its author, C.S. Lewis, had not taken his faith seriously until he engaged his imagination to understand what he believed in. One of his friends who helped him do this was J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of “The Lord of the Rings” and the “The Hobbit,” which also became top-grossing films.

Lewis’s hyperactive imagination made him a lover of mythical stories, especially those where the main character would sacrifice himself for the sake of his beloved. He writes: “Tolkien showed me that if I liked such stories and am moved by them, how much more should I be moved by the story of Christ? The story of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the same as those myths that I have read, but with this tremendous difference, it really happened!”

By connecting his imagination to the factual reality of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, the barriers of unbelief fell away. In his autobiography, Lewis confessed that it was his imagination that was baptized first, “although the rest of me took longer.” When he finally surrendered himself to God, he accepted, not only with his mind but with his whole being that Jesus was his Savior.

Perhaps this explains why the “Chronicles of Narnia” overflows with the truths of our faith and the doctrines we profess. Lewis tried to portray the flesh-and-blood reality of Jesus and His teachings in a way that would capture our imagination.

Today, a new breed of fantasy-weavers, spawned by politics, business, the media, and entertainment industry is now dictating what we should imagine. They design our fantasies and create all types of distractions that involve serial sex, sports, cults, false piety, gossip about celebrities, as well as morbid or fake news to help us escape from the realities of life.

But God blessed us with an imagination that has a natural affinity to truth. The story of C.S. Lewis reminds us that while we can use imagination to escape reality, sell commodities,  and invent weird lifestyles, it can also bring us closer to God and the well-springs of hope, order, truth, beauty, and peace that only He can give.

Many of our problems today stem not from a failure of logic, but from the lack of imagination. We need to recognize the inexhaustible power of human imagination to liberate our hopeful energies, open our eyes to the beckoning of a better future, and above all, to see and feel God’s presence who is closer to us than we can ever imagine.