April 24, 2022
I am fascinated with how the universe works. I always have been. Perhaps like many of you, I like to think of myself a real seeker of knowledge and, yes, truth. So, when I hear the story of Thomas, I see him as a seeker too — as someone who wants to know. His, and our, seeking, searching and yearning to really know, begs the question of how any of us really knows anything. When we say ‘I believe’, why do we believe what we believe?
I, who have never seen the person of Jesus with my physical eyes, believe that he is alive and present to us. Is it just because I accept what others say? It is fair to say that there is a level of trusting what others tell us - if we deem them ‘trust-worthy’. When we were young, most of us probably trusted what our parents and our teachers told us. I did! However, there comes a point when ‘cognitive assent to what others say’ does not sustain us in mature faith.
When it comes to ‘how we know if something is true’ (at least as we study the external world), the process goes something like this:
1.First, we follow an injunction: to know this, do this. If we want to know if it is raining outside, we look out the window; if we want to know if a cell has a nucleus; we look through the microscope; if we want to know how many moons around Jupiter, we look through a telescope.
2. Second, by following the injunction, we have an experience. When we looked out the window, or through the telescope, or into the microscope we gathered ‘the data’.
3.Finally, confirmation: We check our experience (i.e. the data) with a community of the adequate. In other words, we check with others who have already looked through the telescope, the microscope or out the window. If they do not see that it is raining too, maybe I am hallucinating. However, if they DO see the rain I can be pretty sure that the truth is that it is raining. (you get the idea)
(full disclosure – this pithy little three-step summary of the scientific method is from Ken Wilber)
Back to Thomas! This is exactly the process Thomas used:
1. The injuction – Jesus said, put your finger in my side
2. The experience – he saw, felt, touched the wound of Christ . . . and
3. His experience was confirmed - the other Apostles experienced it too
On this topic of deep knowing or mature belief, I often think of the founder of my congregation, Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat. She wrote regularly about the interior life or interior spirit. Her own contemplative practice provided her with the kind of ongoing experiences which allowed her to know what it tasted like, felt like, to be in union with, communion with, in relationship with, touched by and touching, the living Christ.
So, what about us?
The seeker’s path is the seeker’s path is the seeker’s path – interior or exterior:
1. We too have been invited. We have been invited to be still and be courageously interiorly open so as to allow Love/Christ to touch our own wounds or to be courageously open enough to touch the wounds of those around us (in Christ among us).
2. When we actually have the courage to follow the invitation (really follow the invitation or really allow ourselves to be interiorly open), we too have an experience. I am sure you can recall your own powerful experiences - surprisingly tender, loving, connecting. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t believe our own experiences. We rationalize them, we minimize them and we dismiss them.
3. So, we too need to share our experiences with those who have also walked the path: a spiritual mentor/director, a spiritual friend, to see if they are nodding their heads and saying, yes, yes, yes!
If they are, we, who have NOT seen with our eyes of our flesh, can confidently believe!
I am not saying it is easy to take the first step. The difficult part is being open in the first place. It is easier to put up defenses and to protect ourselves. Many of us put up defenses much of the time. I often wonder if this is the biggest problem with our world. It can just be too hard to touch the wounds of humanity (of Christ) among us or within us.
However, when we do, when we allow ourselves to taste, to touch the wounds of Christ (within us, among us, around us, we have life! And, when we have life, we can (like the apostles in the first reading) give life!
Let us then, BE NOT AFRAID!