Believing is SeeingSunday Readings
Second Sunday of Easter, April 7, 2013 (2EasterC)
By Fr. Phil Bloom
Podcast of the Sunday Readings
Sunday Bible Study Questions
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New American Bible
Prayer of the Hours
Bottom line: St. Thomas discovered not only that seeing is believing, but that believing is seeing.
You have heard it said, "Seeing is believing." The Apostle Thomas - also known as Doubting Thomas - illustrates that principle. This Sunday I would like to look at the other side of the coin. Not only is seeing believing, but believing is seeing. In some very important ways we have to believe in order to see. St. Thomas illustrates that principle as well. But before focusing on how he believed in order to see, I would like to show how the principle applies in other areas of life.
The great modern philosopher, Emmanuel Kant, spoke about how we have to make "leap in the dark" before we can begin to live a good life. Kant pointed out that before we can speak about good and bad, right and wrong, we have to accept on faith this principle: That a person should do good and avoid evil. If someone does not accept that principle, it is a waste of time to speak with him about what things are right or wrong, good or bad. Do you see what I am saying? It might sound obvious that we should do good and avoid evil, but that basic principle does involve a leap of faith. There is no way you can prove that someone should do good and avoid evil. You simply have to accept that principle - and get on with it.
It may cause surprise, but doing scientific research also involves a leap of faith. Various philosophers of science (such as Karl Popper) have pointed out science begins with at least an implicit acceptance of certain principles: That the universe is knowable and rational - that it is not at the mercy of irrational, arbitrary forces. Not every culture believes that. One of the reasons why science developed and flourished in the West is because of the Jewish and Christian belief that while God is beyond our understanding he is not capricious and irrational. Along with many other people, Dinesh D'Souza, argues that it is not an accident that the greatest modern scientists were believing Christians. After giving an impressive list,* D'Souza observes:
"The deeper point to be made here, however, is not merely that leading scientists over the centuries have been Christian, but that science itself, in its assumption that the universe is rational and obeys laws discoverable by the human mind, is based on Christian precepts and cannot in fact be done without Christian presuppositions."
I know this statement surprises many people, but the fact is that science - like everyday morality - begins with a certain leap of faith. Science not only follows the principle that "seeing is believing," but also acknowledges the principle that "believing is seeing." You have to make at least an implicit act of faith before you can get started.
So, believing is seeing. As I mentioned in the beginning, while St. Thomas the Apostle wanted to see the evidence, when he finally did encounter the Risen Jesus, he made an of faith. He said, "My Lord and my God!" Now, we might think: "Of course, I would believe too if Jesus appeared to me and showed me his wounded hands and side." Yes, but something more is involved.
Let me make a comparison. When a young man and woman marry, they say, "I will be true to you in good time and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death do us part." They do have evidence of the other person's goodness and trustworthiness, but at the same time they are making a step of faith. Without it, you cannot have the lifelong union of marriage.
Marriage and family begin with an act of faith. So does every human relationship and every human institution: a bank, a school, a grocery store, a parish. We have to begin by placing some faith, some trust in each other - or we will get nowhere. And of course we have work hard to maintain the other person's trust. I want you to know that here at St. Mary of the Valley and in the Archdiocese of Seattle we are working hard for your trust.
But, you know, even if human beings sometimes let us down, there is one who always deserves our faith. Today that person speaks beautiful words: Peace be with you; do not be afraid. He offers evidence, but in the end he asks for an act of faith. Regarding Jesus, the act of faith must be absolute. There is no middle ground. As we heard today from the Book of Revelation, Jesus presents himself as, "the first and the last, the one who lives." He says, "Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld." Before Jesus, we have to give all or walk away.
St. Thomas gave all. He said, "My Lord and my God." This act of faith would begin a great adventure that (according to tradition) would take him eventually to India where he would give his life for Christ. He saw marvellous things, but the greatest was his relationship with Jesus. St. Thomas discovered not only that seeing is believing, but that believing is seeing.**
I invite you this morning to make an act of faith. Especially as I lift the consecrated Host, the Holy Spirit may inspire you to say the same words as the Apostle Thomas, "My Lord and my God."***
*"Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Brahe, Descartes, Boyle, Newton, Leibniz, Gassendi, Pascal, Mersenne, Cuvier, Harvey, Dalton, Farady, Hershel, Joule, Lyell, Lavoisier, Priestley, Kelvin, Ohm, Ampere, Steno, Pasteur, Maxwell, Planck, Mendel and Lemaitre. Einstein too was a believer in God as a kind of supreme mind or spirit discernible through the complex and beautiful laws of nature."
**The early Christian writers had a phrase: "credo ut intelligam." (I believe so that I might understand.) They knew, of course, that our faith has plenty of room for honest questioners. Their questions often lead to deeper insights, but ultimately we must begin and end with faith: "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."
***For Divine Mercy Sunday, a homilist could add:
St. Thomas professed his faith in Jesus - and began to see the deep reality of who Jesus is. After two thousand years of reflection, we still only have a small glimpse of who Jesus is - but we can today sum up his relationship to us with a single word: Mercy. Jesus makes visible the Divine Merc6y.
Today in our sanctuary we have the Divine Mercy image. Our Psalm repeated these words: "His mercy endures forever." In the Gospel Jesus makes Divine Mercy evident by his resurrection. When he appears to the disciples, he does not chide them or chew them out – even though they deserved it. They had all run away. Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. Jesus does not chastise them, but instead says, “Peace be with you.” Then he breathed the Holy Spirit on them. The Holy Spirit is God’s Divine Mercy. By the power the Holy Spirit, he gives them a task: they are to be his official representatives in forgiving sins: Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. What we see is great outpouring of Divine Mercy.
Someone who had a powerful insight into Divine Mercy was Mother Angelica. I am sure you have heard of her – the Poor Clare nun who founded the EWTN – the Eternal Word Television Network. Once she was at a beach in California and even though she wears leg braces, she likes to get close to the surf. A large wave came in and the water covered her shoes. Then she heard a voice, "Angelica, that drop represents all your sins, all your imperfections and all your frailties. Throw it in the ocean." She threw it back. Then she heard the Lord say, "The ocean is My mercy. Now if you looked for that drop, would you ever find it?"
"No, Lord," she replied. Mother Angelica then told the people in her audience that their sins are like that drop in the ocean. "Every day, every minute of the day, throw your drop in the ocean of his His mercy. Then, don't worry, just try harder."
Every day we should throw our sins into the ocean of Divine Mercy – and make a fresh start.