Blessed Are Those Who Have Not Seen, Yet Believe

I had a good friend years ago who belonged to Christian denomination that did not celebrate the usual holidays of the Church. No Christmas, no Easter, no Lent.

Her church argued that none of the actual dates were known, and that in any case, we should celebrate the events the holidays signify, everyday.

Point one, I totally agree. We don’t know the actual date of Jesus’ birth. We are a bit more certain of his death, since it is tied (at least in three Gospels) to the Passover, John disagreeing.

Yet, I disagree about the second, though laudable claim, that we should celebrate these events daily. We should. We don’t.

Our readings today speak eloquently to this fact. In the Gospel of John, the risen Christ has appeared to most of the twelve, and to certain of the women. They are ecstatic and joyous. Yet Thomas, who was not present, doubts. He has to see the risen Lord with his own eyes before he is prepared to believe in the resurrection.

This brings forth one of the most piercing of statements from Jesus:

“Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

I challenge you to read that and not slightly cringe and your own times of lack of faith and of doubt.

We see how that “first hand” knowing played out in the early community. Luke tells us in Acts that the community, remained faithful. They lived in communal equality, (communism actually) and were generous in their sharing. They attended church faithfully, and they were “looked up to” by everyone.

Yet, several decades later, this is not the case. We find “Peter” (probably not the apostle), writing in the later part (we think) of the first century, exhorting his followers to remain faithful in times of great stress and trial. It is thought perhaps that this was a time in Rome of persecution under Domitian or Trajan.

In any case, the writer reminds the community of all the things that have been promised, and what their reward will be. He commends them for their faith throughout the trials of the day. He notes that they have not seen the risen Lord, yet they believe.

Reading between the lines, we conclude that the writer is trying to buck up a stressed community, shoring up their perhaps weakening faith. “. . .you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.”

These readings remind us, still fresh from the resurrection, that we too are subject to falling away. We are still filled with the excitement of Easter after our long sojourn in the desert. We are joyful.

Yet all too soon our everyday concerns will interrupt upon our joy. We will return to the mundane and all the attendant troubles and trials that life visits upon us all.

Our doubts, now we think forever eradicated, will return, if not as outright questions, at least as lukewarm attendance to God and our faith.

The problem with “ordinary” time is that it is all too ordinary. We get too busy with barbecues and lawn mowing, of concerts in the park and farmer’s markets. Our God-time shrinks to an occasional formulaic prayer each day, and an hour squeezed in on Sunday.

For those of us who are on a knowing and deliberate path, this is a time for vigilance. If we are to progress (and isn’t that our goal?) we need to maintain our seeking, our dedication to all those practices that have so far proven useful to our growth.

We, each of us, must plumb the depths of our being and discover what direction God is drawing us to. Is it more study of scripture? Or is it more meditation? Is it more church attendance? Or is it more study of the mystics? Are we finding God in something we do? Or something we enjoy with our senses? Is it nature? Or art? Or music? Is it service?

These are the questions we need be asking, lest we become stale and as unbelieving as Thomas was before he met the risen Lord. Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.

Amen.

** readings are from:

Acts 2:42-47;  1Pet 1:3-9;  Jn 20:19-31

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    May 06, 2011 @ 11:33:24

    Great thoughts Sherry.

    Have you ever read “Evangelical is Not Enough”?

    Here’s a quick description via Amazon: “In this deeply moving narrative, Thomas Howard describes his pilgrimage from Evangelicalism (which he loves and reveres as the religion of his youth) to liturgical Christianity.”

    It’s a wonderful read that I highly recommend for Evangelicals and Catholics.

    Reply

    • Sherry
      May 06, 2011 @ 12:17:54

      oh I sure had not. Thanks so much for telling me about it…I’ll take a look and perhaps add it to my ever growing wish list….lol

      Reply

  2. Tim
    May 07, 2011 @ 17:38:42

    Sherry, I’m constantly astonished how explicitly Jesus and the Apostles stress the polarity of sight and faith. Although I can’t verify this off-hand, I suspect they contrast seeing and trusting more often than reasoning and believing!

    Perhaps this is because their primitive culture lived with natural phenomena they couldn’t rationalize, so reasonable explanation was less important than relying on what they saw at any given moment. And so sight became the blanket metaphor for self-reliance. Whatever prompted their use of the construct, it remains powerful to this day, given how many self-defeating visions we conjure in our heads.

    We live by faith, not by sight!

    Thanks for this–and apologies for the late entry!

    Blessings,
    Tim

    Reply

    • Sherry
      May 08, 2011 @ 12:23:19

      Heavens Tim, no apology required. I am always a bit amused by the main argument of non-believers….prove it! But of course, faith has no place in their world….except that actually it does, and they are unaware of it.

      Nice insight about sight and rationalization…I like it…

      Blessings

      Reply

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