April 24, 2022
Second Sunday of Easter
Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
Happy Easter to all!
I love the Gospel passage when the resurrected Jesus appears to Thomas. We read how Thomas is reprimanded by Jesus for demanding to “see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side,” before he believes. For the Gospel writer, Thomas should believe on the basis of the word which has been spoken to him by the others: “We have seen the Lord.” That is why the blessing on future believers, the Christians who had believed without seeing have a faith which is in no way different from that of the first disciples. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
I love Thomas’ response to Jesus’ invitation to “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” John put in Thomas’ confession the great Christological revelation that Jesus is Lord and God. “My Lord and my God!” This is our faith! To believe that Jesus is our Lord and our God!
English is my second language; I grew up in Colombia, and my first language is Spanish. As you can imagine in my almost 10 years of being a priest, I have had the privileged to preside at many Masses in Spanish. One of the beautiful traditions that some Latinos experience during Mass is during the Consecration: when the priest elevates the Body of Christ, they say, “my Lord and my God,” and the same after the priest elevates the chalice with the Blood of Christ. It is such a beautiful expression of their faith. It is similar to when the disciples were going to Emmaus and recognized the Lord in the breaking of the bread.
I want to write a little bit about our understanding of what “believe” means. (Of course, this reflection will not encompass the fullness of what the Church teaches.) “Believe” and “faith” are translations of the Greek pisteuein and pistis. The verb pisteuein in classical Greek means to trust, to show confidence and to accept as true. The noun pistis expresses assurance, confidence and belief that God exists. In the Gospels, faith in its simplest and general understanding is the acceptance of Jesus himself as being what he claims to be, that he is the Son of God, that he is the Christ, that he is our Savior, that he is Lord and God. So believers are those who accept the preaching of the Apostles and join the Christian community (Church). The acceptance of Christ is not only an intellectual acceptance but is a surrender and a total commitment to Jesus Christ. This commitment to Jesus is not a single act. We need to grow in faith; the fulfillment of our faith is a progressively fuller commitment to Jesus until it reaches the point where the believer lives with Christ. “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” As Paul tell us, “For through the law I died to the law, that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”
Faith not only looks to the past but also to the future. It is the belief that the work begun by the redeeming death and resurrection of Jesus will culminate in eternal life. While we are here on this pilgrimage toward heaven, faith retains a degree of obscurity; it gives us complete assurance and confidence, but it does not grant the fullness of knowledge. “We walk by faith, not by sight.” “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
My heart is broken because of our brothers and sisters who do not believe fully. Many people say “I am spiritual but not religious;” they believe that God exists, but have not yet encountered God in a profound way. There are many people who do not know Jesus and his Church. Let us pray for those who do not know or believe in Jesus that they may find a true believer who guides them to the truth. Let us pray for us, that just like the Apostles we may be able to preach with words and the way we live so that others may come to know, love and believe in Jesus. On Palm Sunday, during the reading of the Passion, we heard Jesus say this to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” Let us turn back and strengthen our brothers and sisters in their faith journey.