Believing Is Seeing

The story of St. Thomas the Apostle or Doubting Thomas is not unfamiliar to us. When Jesus appears to the Apostles a week after the Resurrection, our Lord challenges Thomas in his unbelief and brings him to humble adoration. Thomas is moved to say, “My Lord and my God.”

Just a week earlier, Thomas had said that he would not believe unless He had seen the risen Lord physically. When our Lord appears to the Apostles on the Sunday after Easter, he turns Thomas’s idea on its head. Our Lord states that “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed,” meaning that those who have not seen the Lord physically but believe in Him are blessed.

It is clear that our faith in Jesus is based on the testimony of eyewitnesses. This has been the story of the Church from her inception. The Catholic faith is built upon the testimony of St. Peter and the Apostles, with Jesus Christ at its center. Our faith is not an abstract set of ideas or propositions. It is not a philosophy, as some would suggest. Rather, the Catholic faith is incarnational, rooted in revelation. The transmission of this faith relies on the testimony of those who walked with the Lord during His brief life here on earth. The Gospels themselves are testimonies of faith, written by those who either personally knew the Lord or used eyewitnesses as their primary source.

For Thomas, seeing was believing. For us, however, the opposite is true: believing is seeing. Barring those saints who have been gifted with ecclesiastically-approved apparitions, none of us have seen Jesus in a physically recognizable form. Therefore, our response to Christ is made in faith. It is our eyes of faith that allow us to see Jesus in ways beyond the limitations of physical sight. This is especially true when we come into the presence of the Eucharist. Christ’s presence remains hidden under the veil of sacramental elements, but it is our belief that allows us to truly see Him and acknowledge His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity really and substantially present. Our physical sight fails us, but our sight by faith allows us to penetrate the hidden mysteries contained in this most sublime sacrament.

This dynamic is also at work in the sacrament of penance. The absolution given by the priest invites us to believe that our sins have been forgiven, even though physical sight cannot detect the cleansing of sins. Again, it is faith that allows us to see beyond what mere physical sight can perceive.

St. Anselm of Canterbury once wrote, Credo ut intelligam, which means “I believe so that I may understand.” This must be the disposition of any authentic disciple of the Lord Jesus. The first move is God infusing the virtue of faith into our souls at baptism. The second move is our response in faith, actualizing the potency of this virtue. The third move is allowing our eyes of faith to penetrate the mysteries of God more profoundly through the intellect and free will that He gave us in the first place. Like St. Anselm, may we better understand that believing means truly seeing with the eyes of faith.

Fr. Magat is parochial vicar at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Colonial Beach, Virginia, and St. Anthony of Padua Mission in King George, Virginia.

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

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