On the Second Sunday of Easter every year we hear the same gospel story that speaks of Thomas who doubted. The apostle, who according to an ancient tradition went to India to preach the gospel, is identified with his doubts even though he laid down his life for the Faith. We are grateful that he refused to believe without hard evidence, because his refusal has made our faith stronger. By asking to touch His wounds and to put his hand into His side, Thomas ensured for all of us that the Crucified Lord was truly risen.
The story of Thomas raises questions about faith and doubt in the life of a believer. Some naively think that a person of faith should not doubt. They do not realize that faith is not the result of a mathematical theorem or the conclusion of a scientific experiment. We do not believe because of so-called scientific evidence. Doubts are an inevitable part of faith. We believe in spite of our doubts.
Faith is born in the heart and not in the head. The French philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal, said: “The heart has its reasons, which reason knows not, as we feel in a thousand instances. It is the heart which is conscious of God, not the reason. This then is faith: God sensible to the heart, not to the reason.” It is interesting how in the gospels Jesus does not ask His followers to believe in Him first. The first thing He asks of them is to follow Him, to be with Him. Once they have spent time with Him, have listened to His words and have experienced Him personally, then they put their faith in Him. When Thomas comes face to face with the Risen Lord, he is so moved by Jesus’ gesture of love that he does not even look at the wounds or put his hand into His side. Instead of chiding him for his lack of faith, the Master accedes to his request and the doubter is overwhelmed. All he could say was that unforgettable prayer of faith: “My Lord and My God!
There is another interesting fact to notice in the Easter stories that we hear during this season. Mary Magdalene brought the good news of the empty tomb to both Peter and John. Yet the Gospel of John recounts that only the Beloved Disciple believed. Peter believes only later. John believes immediately – at least this is my theory – because he loved the Lord deeply and never left His side. He was the one who rested his head on the Master’s chest at the Last Supper and heard His beating heart. Again, the first one to believe in the Risen Lord was Mary Magdalene. She recognized Him as soon as He called her name. Her faith was born out of love. Finally, when the fallen Peter meets the Risen Lord on the lakeshore, He does not ask him whether Peter believes in Him. His question was surprising and simple: “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” I would like to assert that faith is love’s vision. Once we are in love with the Lord, we believe in Him. We begin to see things with different eyes. That is why the Letter to the Hebrews says: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Let us for a moment think of our own personal experience of love and trust. For those of you who are married, what came first – faith or love? I believe love came first and once you were convinced that your future spouse loved you deeply then you were ready to trust completely. Over the years of your dating and courting, you grew in your faith in the other person and eventually that faith enabled you to say “Yes” to that person for life. Your decision to marry basically said that you were willing to risk everything for him/her. You were convinced that you felt so completely loved that you could trust him/her completely.
In the same way, God loved us first. As John writes in his First Letter, “This is the love of God – not our love for God, but God’s love for us who loved us first and gave us His only Son.” God loved us even before we existed. He keeps loving us all through our lives and showers on us numerous gifts, both big and small. We are not aware of His infinite love for us. He even works great miracles in our lives and still we do not get it. If only we become convinced of His love – how He loves us completely and categorically – we will be able to put our faith in Him. That faith is expressed in total trust. When that trust becomes full-blown, then we are ready to go wherever He leads us. When that kind of faith and trust fill our hearts, then we are willing to believe all that the Lord has revealed to us. The evidence on which our faith is based is the Word of the Lord and we submit to His Word because we are swept off our feet by His love.
Just as in our human experience of love we face doubts and questions, in our relationship with God we do encounter occasional hesitation and puzzlement. Everything is not always clear. In those moments we bow our heads, as did Mary, even when we do not have all the answers. We take Him at His Word. Many great figures of the Bible like Abraham and Jeremiah bargain, argue, and even fight with God. However, their faith in Him is never in question.
May our love for the Lord grow deeper so that our faith and trust in Him may grow stronger! Lord, we believe and please help our unbelief.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...