One of the challenges in reading or hearing or studying (in faith) the passages from Scripture is trying to figure out where we fit in all of it. Sometimes the stories of our faith are difficult to connect to our lives today, two thousand and plus years later. “What does the story of Noah’s ark have to do with you or me?” we might ask. Or our father in faith, Abraham, and the near-sacrifice of Isaac? Or Joseph and his brothers? Or Samson and that uncut hair of his? Or Saul, Solomon, and David? Or the Virgin’s Birth?
Or countless stories from the mouth of Jesus, stories in which he’s talking about a world far removed from our own – a world with many different customs and traditions and religious practices? Or St. Paul’s letters written to specific communities with specific problems and concerns? At times, the Sacred Scripture can seem like words meant only for people who lived long ago. Our task (two thousand years later) is to try to connect the dots between these sacred words written long ago and our day-to-day realities. And it’s not always easy as a matter of fact.
But today it is.
That’s why the story we just heard (and hear every single year on the Sunday after Easter) is so powerful and so memorable. In fact, it is one of the few times when Jesus seems to be talking directly to us, plainly and without ambiguity. No enigmatic words. No parable turning our expectations upside-down. No other worldly discourses which strain our ability to understand or comprehend. No, today our Lord refers to us in his conversation with his small group of disciples long ago, as he utters ten of the most famous words in all of Scripture:
“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
There is no doubt who he is talking about. He’s talking about you and me and countless others through the centuries, every single person who didn’t have the profound privilege of encountering Jesus the risen Lord. Except for that ridiculously small number, all the rest had to take the word of someone else, had to believe in a story told by another, that is, had to believe even though they hadn’t seen.
Again, that’s you and me. And for this, Jesus calls us “blessed”.
The claims of Christianity are pretty outrageous. And by “outrageous” I don’t mean “untrue”. I simply mean that they are (on the surface) almost unbelievable by their very nature. And not just a few, a lot of them. And none stretches our minds and our reason more than the resurrection of Jesus. The fact that any of us believe it at all, is itself a kind of miracle.
And that means there almost always will be doubts. There will always be a certain amount of not-knowing. There will certainly always be a shortage of “empirical” evidence. There will often be a good deal of confusion, and puzzlement, a kind of “throwing up of our hands” , wondering what it all means and wondering whether or not we are even close to understanding what God wants us to understand about these great mysteries of life.
And that’s where faith comes in. And make no mistake about it, faith comes from God. The fact that we can believe at all is itself a gift – a gift from our loving God who wants nothing more than for us to draw closer to him, commune with him, dwell in him and He in us. But faith requires embracing things that can’t be proved, accepting things we can’t fully understand, believing things we cannot see.
In a certain sense, faith is about somehow being okay with the doubts, with not-knowing, okay with not seeing or understanding clearly – yet living as if we do – living as if we are confident of what has been handed down to us from those first believers. In other words, faith is about being honest about and accepting that we really “don’t know” (in the fullest sense of those words) while at the same time choosing to live as if we do – choosing to live life with a certain kind of confidence and trust (not arrogance) that we are on the right path, the path back to the God who made us and who died for us.
The difference-maker in all of this is the way we look at the world, the lens of faith by which we experience all of creation – particularly one another. We don’t believe in a God who is absent from the world, but rather one who is immersed in it. And that means that there is evidence of God and glimpses of his presence everywhere – in every creature and every rock, in every situation and circumstance, and, most importantly, in every single person – even our enemies. And our journey of faith becomes a little easier each time we can discover and encounter our God as we go about our day-to-day lives. He’s even behind the locked doors of our own hearts, waiting for us to recognize him.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
My dear friends, we will probably never see the risen Jesus (in the tangible and intimate way his disciples did) short of our life with God in heaven. But that doesn’t mean we have to go through life blind, doesn’t mean we have to stumble through life without any evidence of his existence or presence. God is still in our midst.
We just have to know where to look.
My dear friends, today is Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of the Easter season. It was named by St. John Paul II at the canonization of Sr. Maria Faustina on April 30, 2000, and then officially decreed by the Vatican. Divine Mercy Sunday can be seen as:
the convergence of all the mysteries and graces of Holy Week and Easter Week.
The feast focuses the light of the Risen Christ into a radiant beam of merciful love and grace for the whole world. In his revelations to Sr. Faustina, Jesus expressed His desire to celebrate this special feast. He says:
“the Feast of Mercy emerged from his very depths of tenderness and mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of his Mercy”.
Jesus says that the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened; and let no soul fear to draw near to him, even though his/her sins be as scarlet because the Feast of Mercy emerged from the very depths of his tenderness.
Let me wind up by reading one of the messages Sr. Faustina recorded in her Dairy # 848:
Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity… tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near.
At the canonization of St. Faustina, St. John Paul II said, “Believing in the love of God means believing in His mercy.” St Faustina invites us by the witness of her life to keep our Faith and Hope fixed on God the Father, rich in mercy, Who saved us by the precious Blood of His Son. During her short life, the Lord Jesus assigned to St. Faustina three basic tasks:
- to pray for souls, entrusting them to God’s incomprehensible Mercy;
- to tell the world about God’s generous Mercy;
- to start a new movement in the Church focusing on God’s Mercy. At the canonization of St. Faustina, Pope St. John Paul II said: “The cross, even after the Resurrection of the Son of God, speaks, and never ceases to speak, of God the Father, Who is absolutely faithful to His eternal love for man. … Believing in this love means believing in mercy.”