On this Second Sunday of Easter, we hear the familiar gospel story that is proclaimed year after year as the Octave of Easter comes to a close. It is the story of the risen Lord appearing before his closest friends only to have one of them, Thomas, at first doubt the reality of his risen presence but in the end, as the Lord stood before him in glory, he finally surrenders in belief. To Thomas and to all who wrestle with faith, Jesus says, “You became a believer because you saw me. Blest are they who have not seen and have believed."
Basking in the glory of the great feast of Easter, God’s word sets before us, the transforming and reconciling power of faith and belief in our lives. What does it mean to believe? What does it mean to have faith?
Part of the difficulty that many have with the reality of faith and belief is that tragically many of our contemporaries have been seduced into believing that the only verifiable knowledge that we can obtain or know in this world of ours comes from science. The seduction of scientism sounds like this, “If it cannot be proved scientifically, then it doesn’t exist.”
While science and the scientific method has indeed been a valuable source of knowledge and truth for humankind down through the centuries, more and more philosophers and scientist are modestly acknowledging the limits of science in capturing all truth in life.
Can science explain the committed love that has sealed the 50 years of marriage of couples who have worked hard at letting their marriages grow in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health? Can science explain a mother’s love for her children? Can science explain the selfless gift of a service man or woman to lay down their lives for their country? Can science explain the wonder of friendship, the loneliness that comes with the death of a loved one, the newness that is experienced in the gift of forgiveness and healing?
The belief that flows from faith, while not denying the truths of science, opens for us another way of knowing the deepest truths of life. For it is the way of knowing with the heart through trust in love.
As Christians, the ultimate ground of our knowing is rooted in a God who shared most intimately his life with us in His Son Jesus. A God whose own love for us was stronger than death. As Christians, our faith is rooted in his words of promise to us. It was this story of knowing without seeing, of believing in trust, that shaped the life of the early Church and continues to shape our lives as a people of faith.
While we may never be able to prove our resurrection belief through the instruments of science, we believe because we have God’s word that it is true, a God “who can neither deceive nor be deceived.”
While our rich philosophical tradition may help others come to understand the “reasonableness” of faith, in the end, faith is ultimately that great leap we make to trust with all our heart the one in whom we live and move and have our being. It is a gift given in grace to see with eyes of love and trust.
Some years ago, when there was a severe drought, farmers were growing ever more anxious about the loss of crops and the erosion of the top soil. In one country parish a special prayer vigil was organized. The church was crowded from the beginning of the service and one after another the people prayed for rain. Hour by hour the prayers echoed around the tiny church until the dawn light began to show. It was just then that they heard the very faintest patter on the roof. Gradually it grew heavier and heavier. The whole church knelt and thanked God in their final prayers before leaving for home. By that time, though, the rain had become so heavy that they all had to stand on the porch and wait for the storm to pass. All but one little girl. She had brought her umbrella with her the night before.
My brothers and sisters, let us pray that our faith may be like that little girl’s. “Blest are they who have not seen, but believed,” and trust with all their heart.