No sooner have we entered the mystery of the Resurrection of our Lord, than we are thrust into the mystery of the Ascension.
Its not as if we can really make that much sense of the resurrection, is it? We can even feel the struggle those who witnessed it had in trying to explain it to others – and it must have looked even more bizarre when it was written down! No wonder Thomas wanted something physical to make him believe – I think we’d all like some of that, wouldn’t we?
But Jesus meets us right at that intersection of doubt and need of proof. Anticipating our unwillingness or inability to stake our lives on some dodgy written witness from two thousand years ago, Jesus replied to Thomas’ physical experience of his resurrected friend’s wounds: “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:29)
Coming from a parish in the UK that has St. Thomas as its patron, I think I must have heard just about every sermon about Thomas that it is possible to hear, and yet I am still fascinated by the man – and I am thankful he had the guts to say what the other disciples couldn’t.
Just in case you’ve never noticed, it seems that every disciple was initially offered belief in the resurrection of Christ on the basis of the words of someone else – whether an angel, or a man, or … a woman. But none of them actually really believed until they had experienced the Risen Christ themselves.
On the basis of this evidence, then, we shouldn’t point to Thomas as an isolated figure; we should be thanking him for being the only one brave enough to articulate his doubt.
Which leads to us, and our belief. If we claim to believe that Jesus came back from the dead, and then ascended into heaven – just like the words of the Creed have us claim – why do we believe it?
After all, it isn’t as if we can call someone up who witnessed the event, is it? We cannot even meet someone who saw Jesus when He was alive! So we rely upon not only the say-so of an unnumbered line of people who have passed on this belief, we also rely upon a written witness that is a little incoherent as to what the resurrection is all about.
So why do we believe it? Or – more to the point – why do I believe it?
The answer to that last part is both complex and simple. It is complex because I have to take in the broad history of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ and find an explanation for our inability to stop ourselves from being the center of our own universes.
It is complex because believing doesn’t give me all the answers – and it doesn’t stop me from hurting when those whom I love die.
It is complex because we live in a world full of other belief systems, and at the same time we have shifted away from being myth-believing, superstitious creatures.
And yet …
And yet there is something so logical about it!
Belief in God as Creator not only makes sense to me, it makes sense of the evidence. Concepts such as ‘love’ and ‘beauty’, and our admittedly-fleeting ability to transcend ourselves point to something more about who we are. We are not merely ‘intelligent apes’ – there is something in us that aspires to what we call ‘the divine’.
And then there is Jesus.
With everything I’ve come to know about the world, life, and myself – my loves and fears, and the ‘yearning’ that is inside me – there is something about Jesus that continually draws me to Him; there is something about Jesus that makes me trust Him.
I believe that what has been written about Him is only a part of the glorious person He was – and is, but I believe that what has been written is, as St. John tells us, enough so that I “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you (I) may have life in His name.”
I pride myself in being a rational person – and here I am making statements that probably sound crazy to some! That cannot be helped. There are definitely “more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in” anyone’s philosophy; I believe Jesus is the One who brings all things together. He really is, as Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God”. I believe this, even though I have to wait for the final proof to see that this is true.
Meanwhile, I now have to live in a way that shows I believe this is true. Thankfully, I have the example of two thousand years of saints to help me – most of whom had not met Jesus either.
Alleluia! Christ IS Risen,