Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blessed are They who Have Not Seen, and Yet Believe - A Homily for Easter 2, Year C, 2010

Homily for Easter 2, Year C, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Thornhill, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: John 20:19-29

“Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.”
-- John 20:29

Recently, the CBC re-ran an episode of Tapestry featuring an interview with the Franciscan writer, Richard Rohr. Rohr explained that while the Western Christian Tradition has a grand tradition of systematic theology, that strength, namely explaining and systematizing every detail of the faith, has also been its weakness. He posed this question: if everything is explained and understood, then where does faith come in?

To be sure, “faith seeks understanding,” as the old saying goes. I would be the last one to say that we should not engage our heads in the task of understanding our faith. To explore the questions of our faith and engage in critical theology is to worship and contemplate God with our minds. It is an act of intellectual piety. Sometimes though, in our efforts to work out all the details of the faith, we lose sight of what the concept faith actually means. Faith is about believing without knowing or understanding how it might all fit together. Faith is about trust. Faith is about believing even in the midst of all the doubts that bounce around in our heads and hearts.

Thomas is to be commended because demanded proof. His faith was not of the mindless sort. He could not make the acclamation “Christ is risen!” unless he saw and touched the risen Lord, himself. In his skepticism and his need for evidence, Thomas would have fit into the Church of our day (or any other day) quite nicely. Perhaps Thomas was the first Christian theologian, seeking to understand his theological landscape by gathering evidence in order that he might sort it out and make sense of it all. We need people who do this sort of work. In fact, we are all called to try to make sense of our faith.

On the other hand, though, we can be riddled with such skepticism and a demand for evidence that we might never believe anything, even when the evidence is put before us. Since the Enlightenment, we have tended to live our lives with a hermeneutic of suspicion: unless I can have absolute certainty about the theological landscape of Christianity, I cannot, I will not believe. But then, what is faith?

Thomas, who refused to believe unless he saw with his own eyes and touched with his own hands, stood before the Lord who offered him just that opportunity. “See my wounds, Thomas. Touch them! Do not doubt, but believe!”

Interestingly, and profoundly, we are not told if Thomas actually touched Jesus, only that he responded with the most forthright confession of faith in the whole New Testament, “My Lord and My God!” Did Thomas realize upon seeing his master, that he had no need to touch him, that sight alone was enough for him to make that leap of faith?

And what of us who have not the privilege of gazing upon those wounds, much less the opportunity to touch them? Will we demand evidence before we believe? Perhaps, though, we ought to look at things from another perspective. Maybe it is not us who touch Jesus, but Jesus who touches us. Perhaps it is Jesus who sees us in our doubt and our distress and reaches out to us, as he did to his disciples with the words, “Peace be with you,” and offering that peace opens for us the eyes of faith. For, it seems to me, faith is not something we can ever really attain by gathering up evidence, rather, it is something we can claim when we have been beheld and touched by our Risen Lord. In recognizing that the Lord has first touched us, then the fire of faith is kindled in our hearts. The work of theology is not about seeking out God to prove God exists and ignite faith within us, rather is our response to a loving God who knows us by name, calls us and reaches out to us. “Faith seeking understanding” is precisely that. It is the working out of the gift of faith that the fire kindled with in us might burn more brightly, more deeply and more fully in our lives. Blessed are we who have been seen by the Lord, and believe.

c. 2010, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

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