Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”John 20:29
These words from Jesus to St. Thomas the apostle beckon to us all.
What does it mean to truly possess our faith? To really believe?
Is our faith more than just our belief system?
For some of us, our faith will never move from our head to our heart. We will always hold our beliefs in our mind. We have been raised with a certain set of beliefs that we profess as adults. We receive our sacraments and get married in the Church. We know the Ten Commandments, and we utilize the sacraments. We sign our children up for CCD or RED classes and make sure they receive their sacraments. We logically believe these truths and live our life under that umbrella of beliefs. We attend Sunday Mass, we pray our prayers, and we try to be good people.
At this point, our faith is nothing more than a belief system. We can believe these truths in the same way that we believe in the US Constitution or the Bill of Rights. We can view our faith beliefs as similar to our stance on foreign policy or the best economic strategy for our country.
But are we in relationship with God? Does our faith move beyond beliefs to a personal and tangible relationship with our creator?
Our Lord came down from heaven to be among us. He took on our humanity so that we could have tangible examples of how to follow the Father’s Will. We read through the scriptures as He teaches us, through parables, how to love our neighbor (the Good Samaritan), how our Father leaves the 99 in search of us (The Prodigal Son), and how we are to pray (The Our Father).
Through Scripture, we encounter the humanity of Jesus. We read how He wept when Lazarus died. We read about His righteous anger that led to the flipping of the tables in the temple. We understand that Jesus was both divine and human. We can come to Him with our insecurities, our failures, and our struggles. Jesus, too, was tempted by Satan in His humanity. He knows our struggle. Through sin entering the world, suffering enters as well. We suffer even when we do the Will of the Father, just like Jesus did. As we approach the crucifixion, we see the Son of God demonstrating true suffering, a willingness to die to self for the greater glory of God. Jesus demonstrates, as the perfect human, that this is the will for us as well: to die to self and live for the Lord.
However, this is where we more closely model the behavior of “Doubting Thomas,” the apostle. Essentially, we are awaiting the Lord to show us His wounds. We desire to believe, but our beliefs have yet to become “alive” or take on flesh. We are living the truth of the crucifixion, but the truth of the resurrection has not penetrated our hearts.
When St. Thomas sees the “wounds” of Christ, he exclaims, “My Lord, and my God.” There is this moment of intimacy where Jesus reveals himself to Thomas. He essentially “exposes” his woundedness. This action by Jesus is an invitation to understand. Jesus invites Thomas into a deeper relationship with Him. At that moment, everything that his head has comprehended, now his heart feels. There is an immediate assimilation of mind and heart. He is overwhelmed with love for a God who would walk with him. A God who would love him. A God who sacrificed everything for his salvation. The resurrection penetrated his heart. He was overcome with the joy of redemption.
For our faith to move from our head to our heart, we must have a true conversion of our heart. David proclaimed, “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew within me a steadfast spirit.”- Psalm 51: 12. His desire was for a different heart than he had. He saw the sinfulness of his behavior and how it separated him from God. He wanted to be changed. He was asking for a closeness with God by living by the Spirit of God. He wanted a deeper intimacy with God, and he knew this would require a change of his heart.
In the New Testament, we see what an encounter with the Lord does. The two men walking on the road to Emmaus shared, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”- Luke 24:32. When we truly encounter the Lord, our hearts will burn within us. Our heart, itself, undergoes a transformation, a conversion.
St. Augustine wrote about this when he said, “our hearts will not rest until they rest in you.” Our hearts are meant for God alone. We were created for love by love.
Where is your faith? Have you made that journey from the head to the heart? If not, the Lord awaits you. He awaits an opportunity for a deeper relationship with you. He wants your faith to be based on the love of the Trinity and his desire for happiness with you in heaven. He awaits forever in heaven with you.
One of my favorite lines from The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers is when Gandalf says to the King, who is possessed by an evil entity, “too long have you lived in the shadows…” It’s a profound invitation to come out of hiding, to leave complacency behind, and enter the fight.
To make the journey from head to heart….
To walk the road to Emmaus……