“Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Many of you know that I spent some time as an auditor in Columbus before the seminary. And I can assure you there is one passage of scripture that would not have been hanging on our office walls in the venerable accounting profession: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed” Try that with your tax accountant or the IRS – “but I promise… I spent it on business purposes, but I don’t have documentation..” “Oh it’s okay, I don’t need to see proof, I believe…”
We know the very basis of our faith is believing in things not easily seen. The Holy Spirit enlivens our hearts to believe that Jesus, though in the form of God, emptied himself and became a slave and accepted death on a cross. We believe that He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and because of his death and resurrection, we are now children of God and receive a son and daughter’s share of the Father’s Kingdom.
And yet where is our proof? The world understandably asks us Christians – how can you believe in a God we cannot see or hear or touch or test? These are nice folktales, but where is the evidence that Jesus did anything you say he did? Give us data, give us evidence, and we will believe.
We rely entirely on the faith put into our hearts by the Holy Spirit – faith passed down in this book, the Word of God. Testimony passed down through our bishops from the Apostles themselves, in an unbroken chain. Faith taught to us by our moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas. We are the people Jesus was talking about in this Gospel “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” We have not seen the holes in Christ’s hands or the gash in his side – but in our hearts we know there is nothing truer in the world today than the love Jesus Christ had for us when he took our sins on his shoulders and carried them through death into resurrected life.
But it’s natural that the rational mind has a hard time with this – because love, at least the kind of love God has for us, seems so irrational – absurd.
Love asks you to take a risk without seeing proof or assurances. Pope Benedict XVI wrote “The purely calculating mind will always find it absurd that for humans God himself should be expended. Only the lover can understand the folly of a love to which extravagance is a law and excess alone is sufficient.” Excess alone is sufficient – I think couples getting ready for marriage know this kind of love. Nothing is too much. A man buys the woman he loves jewelry and roses – not savings bonds and a toaster. Those are sensible gifts, but they obviously don’t cut it. And he doesn’t buy fancy, over-the-top gifts because she expects it (though, in some cases, guys, it might be best to presume she does…..) He buys these gifts because “excess alone is sufficient” – his heart yearns so much for her and is so passionate, every gift seems too small.
Such is the love of God the Father for us. Every gift he had given humankind was just too small – the Garden of Eden: too small. Freedom from Pharoah’s chains: too small. Israel’s own nation and temple: too small. God’s heart yearned for us and our love and well-being so much that Jesus was the only gift big enough to show his over-the-top desire and love for humanity. The Easter Proclamation says “To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.” Absurd. Irrational. Excessive. True love.
In our time, perhaps the most excessive gift we rational, risk-averse moderns can give is our need for security, our need to know what the road ahead looks like. A husband gives his whole life to his wife, including the chance things could get rough at times. A wife does the same. They believe in each other’s vows and they trust Jesus when he said “What God has joined man cannot separate.” But they have no assurance how things will turn out when they marry, but they make and keep their vows. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe. It’s excessive – and it looks a whole lot like Christ’s love for the Church.
My brother priests and I, along with consecrated brothers and sisters, have given our lives in a total way to God’s people without assurance of what the future holds. The Constitutions of Holy Cross say “We pronounce our vows in a moment, but living them for the sake of the kingdom is the work of a lifetime.” We do not see into the future, but we believe our God is trustworthy. We believe he will strengthen and guide us and pick us up when we fall – and prosper the work we do for His flock. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe.
St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” We may not see the Risen Lord Jesus in his glorified body until we meet him in heaven, but we believe in Him and His promises. The eyes of our hearts are enlightened to see Jesus in the Eucharist and in the Scriptures and in the face of every person we meet – especially those in most need of our love.
We believe, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, and he offers us the blessings that nothing else, that no one else, can – he takes away our sins, our anxieties, our pain, our sadness. In their place he gives us peace, and joy, and eternal life. By His Holy Cross we are saved. Blessed are we, who have not seen, and yet believe.
Fr. David Halm, C.S.C. was ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross on April 11, 2015 along with five of his seminary classmates. Fr. Halm has been serving for the last year at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, Arizona. Fr. David is originally from Clyde, Ohio.