April 12, 2015
EASTER II (B)
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed. – John 20: 29
Here is a problem for both John’s readers as well as for us. How is faith possible for those who have not seen the risen Christ with their eyes? Today’s Gospel is not concerned with proving the resurrection, & still less with analyzing the psychological structure of doubt. Yet it is Thomas’ doubt which makes him at one with most of here today. It is not the doubt of the hostile Pharisees or Sadducees who demand to be proven wrong by some irrefutable sign, but the painful doubt of one who wants to believe but cannot for fear that it is too good to be true: “I do believe. Help my unbelief” (Mark 9: 24)!
Like Thomas, our faith is all too often an uncertain possession that must be refined in the crucible of doubt before it can endure in a cynical, disbelieving world. In the event, it was not so much seeing which convinced Thomas (or others, for that matter), but the voice of Jesus speaking to him & summoning him to faith.
He did not take up Jesus on the invitation to touch because what he perceived lies beyond the physical senses, indeed beyond any chain of logical deduction. Faith may include such things, but they are not essential & may be misleading. Our text is a rebuke to the demand for that physical proof which merely satisfies our curiosity rather than stimulating our vision.
The experience granted to Thomas must be regarded as exceptional – a free gift which no one has a right to demand as a precondition for faith. Does this mean we are speaking of blind faith here? Not at all. We have the testimony of those who saw Him after the resurrection & others like Paul on the road to Damascus. Finally, we have our own spiritual faculties which, sharpened by prayer & discipline, can perceive the nearness of our risen Lord in a more indirect but no less real fashion.
Finally, & possibly more importantly, we have the witness of the visible community of people who have themselves been recreated & made new by the risen life of our Lord. This is why what we do & say, both individually & collectively, is significant. It reflects to what extent we have or have not been transformed by the power of God. In short, our parish community is an open book for the world to read. The scary question is, what do they see in us? AMEN!