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Not seeing and yet believing

          

[On Easter evening] Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, "We have seen the Lord," he answered, "Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe." Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. "Peace be with you" he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, "Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe." Thomas replied, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him: "You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."

(John 20:24-29)


Lectio

Can you remember a time when something great happened for you? It may have been in your personal life, in your family, or in your work. It may have been so great that you felt sure the hand of God was at work, and you felt so excited and so grateful that you could have said what Thomas said, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Like Thomas, you saw and you believed.

He thinks of us in little things
You may recognise the hand of God in smaller things that happened too: the help you were offered just when you needed it, the unexpected acts of kindness you received, the good fortune of being at the right place at the right time. On his eightieth birthday, Pope Benedict looked back on his life; he said that God’s mercy accompanies us every day: ‘To be able to perceive his mercy it suffices to have a heart that is alert. We are excessively inclined to notice only the daily effort that has been imposed upon us as children of Adam. If, however, we open our hearts, then we can be constantly aware of how good God is to us; how he thinks of us precisely in little things, thus helping us to achieve important ones.’ When we notice that God is helping us in small ways - and he does this all the time - we can say, ‘My Lord and my God!’ In those moments we are seeing and believing.

No sign of God
But there are times we see no sign of God: no sign that he is doing anything, no sign that he is listening, no sign that he is there at all. This may be our experience especially when we face enormous difficulty and or grave loss. Yet we may find that even in those times, we still manage to believe that there is a God, that he must still care about us and that he will bring us through. We cannot see, yet we believe. Jesus had special words of praise for people in that situation: ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

We see this blessing in the lives of people who have to cope with recurring depression or with chronic pain or with family problems that go on and on. They get up in the morning unless they are confined to bed, and they put one foot before the other and face the day with courage and patience. They still believe in goodness and love, they live their lives as fully as they can, and they still believe in God.

There are voluntary groups and associations who do this too. They do what they can to create a just world where there is fair trade and sharing of resources; they try to save the lives of the unborn, to protect the environment, to eliminate racism, to safeguard human rights. They may see very little results of their labours, and sometimes are saddened to see that things get worse. But they don’t give up. They do not see but yet believe.

Lighting the light of those in darkness
Mother Teresa began her missionary work with the poor in Calcutta in 1948. On the following year she had a terrible experience of spiritual darkness which continued for the rest of her life. She longed to experience the love of God, but, as she wrote in a letter to her confessor, ‘The place of God in my soul is blank. There is no God in me. I just long and long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me —Sometimes—I just hear my own heart cry out—“My God” and nothing else comes.—The torture and pain I can’t explain.”

A long time afterwards she found a wise confessor. He reassured her that this suffering was part of her vocation. She was sharing in the suffering Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross when he cried out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ She was also sharing in the suffering of the people she served, whom she described as “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” And she was sharing in the darkness and loneliness of those who face the trials of life with no awareness of God.

The editor who published her letters after she died said, “Without her interior darkness, without knowing such a longing for love and the pain of being unloved, and without this radical identification with the poor, Mother Teresa would not have won over their trust and their hearts to the extent she did.” Her spiritual darkness continued, but from then on she was at peace. Through all those years she did not see but still believed. She said that if she ever became a saint in heaven, she would be absent from there continually in order ‘to light the light of those in darkness on earth.’


                                                                            Brendan Clifford
 
Prayer: Psalm 4
Lord, I believe,
help my unbelief.
My Lord and my God!
(Mk 9:24, Jn 20:28)

 

 

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