Jesus says to St. Thomas, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
A similar statement is given in the First Letter of Peter, in the passage for today’s second reading at Mass. Here the author writes, “Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet you believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls.”
We hear these statements and recognize that we are those also who have not seen but believe.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus calls for faith — faith in him, faith in the Father, faith in his word, message and person. We celebrate that faith today as we continue to observe Easter.
Jesus’ victory over sin and death is made manifest in his resurrection from the dead. The Gospel readings for the Easter season recall Jesus’ appearances to the eleven and his disciples after his three days in the tomb. He is risen. The finding of the empty tomb along with the encounters of the risen Christ are handed down, generation to generation, in a living memory. This witness assists the faith of those who have not seen but believed.
The Gospel account for today’s liturgy recalls two of the Resurrection appearances. In both cases, Jesus appears to his disciples in, by tradition, the upper room. They are gathered there behind locked doors for they are fearful. This fear is dispelled as they encounter the risen Lord. Fear is replaced with courage as the Holy Spirit is poured out upon them.
In the first account, Thomas is absent. He responds with incredulity when told about Jesus’ appearance — so much so that he says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). In the second account, Thomas is present. Jesus appears and goes right to him showing him his hands and side which the nails had pierced saying, “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.” .
Throughout his public ministry, Jesus had been calling people to faith. His words to Thomas are not new. That call persists and endures down to the present age. Thomas responds with the greatest acclamation of faith in the fourth Gospel: “My Lord and my God!”
The faith of the Church is recalled in the first reading from Acts of the Apostles. The Church is one in communion because of the risen Christ. The life of faith is manifest in the way believers lived. St. Luke tells us that “they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.”
The description he gives reminds us that the faith permeated the life of the community. As a result, they “had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.” They would pray and “break bread” both in the Temple and at home. They ate meals “with exultation and sincerity of heart.” Faith in the risen Lord energized the lives of the believers.
That faith continues to be handed on and lived today. At the core of our faith is Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Recognizing the love and mercy of God poured out in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, fills our hearts with joy. Faith in Christ is a “game changer.” We have life because of him, and in response, we share that life with others.
In our parishes and all over the world, the faithful continue to gather together for prayer in our homes and communities. We gather together to break the bread; we share our wealth with those in need, both near and far, and we rejoice in the life and love God has for us.
The call to faith continues today. At the Easter vigil, again in churches all over the world, men and women were baptized; the faith is being handed on. They, like us, have not seen but believed. We continue to celebrate and rejoice in the Lord, for he is risen, and in his resurrection is our life.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Morrisville, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.