Recently, the Sunday Gospel reading told the post-resurrection story of Thomas, who has the very unfortunate reputation as somebody who did not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Most of us are familiar with the phrase Doubting Thomas. This is the guy. For some unknown reason, he did not show up for that first gathering when the disciples were visited by Jesus in his resurrected state.
A week later, Thomas is there at the gathering when Jesus appears and he invites Thomas to touch his wounds as proof he is alive. Thomas, of course, proclaims his belief saying, “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is what condemns Thomas’ reputation — that he needed to see in order to believe. Thus, for 2000 years his fate is sealed by a moment when he actually asked a legitimate question. How many times have you said, “I’ll believe it when I see it”?
Most of us are like Thomas I would wager. We need to see lots of things before we can believe. There are some things in life that are so fantastical, so dream-like, and so unreal to us that seeing is believing. Like the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. (Oh right, I forgot they did win after waiting 108 years.) We are all doubters, too bad Thomas gets the bad reputation we all could claim.
Seeing is believing is not a bad thing when it comes to God. Sometimes we believe God is acting in our lives because we see it – in a life that is changed for the good, a sickness that is unexpectedly healed. We can see God all over the place if we really look. Just go to the nearest window and marvel at what you see. After all, John describes the believers as we who have seen His glory. (John 1:14)
When we believe because we have seen, we have experienced something marvelous, some unexpectedly wonderful. How can you not believe after seeing a sunset or the moon rise? (If you need a little inspiration watch this 4 minute video of the moon rising in New Zealand).
Belief is a gift, a gift that comes after being blind to God in some way. But we can come to belief either way, by the sheer gift of God in a moment of awakening to faith, or by seeing something, being a witness to something in life that awakens us to faith. Start with faith. Start with needing to see. Same thing in the end. What God desires for us is that we come to belief. Does it matter to God one way or the other how we come to faith? I don’t think so, just as long as we can get there in the end.
Thomas, you did us all a favor by being absent that day and coming to faith by naming what most of us hold in secret. We can turn: “I’ll believe it when I see it,” into “I see because I believe.”