Thursday in the Octave of Easter

We sometimes do not cut the Apostles enough slack. We assume that because they knew Jesus better than anyone, they would have been the first to believe in His resurrection. Yet the women and now Cleopas and his companion have delivered their testimony, but the Eleven are skeptical, as most of them have not yet seen and thus do not yet believe. In an instant Jesus is in their midst, and they believe Him to be a ghost. The trauma of not only losing Him but also the wounds of their own cowardice and betrayal leave the eyes of their hearts clenched shut.

“See, and believe,” Jesus seems to tell them. He invites them to notice the marks of His Passion, a sure sign of His identity as their Jesus who has died; He eats in their presence to prove that He is alive. As with Cleopas on the road, He walks His apostles through the prophets, opening their minds in order to open their hearts. And how many meals of fish must they have shared together, there on the shores of the Sea of Galilee? How their memory must have been stirred to life; how their hearts must have burned with love.

Jesus tells them they have been witnesses to everything foretold of Him, that they have beheld the fulfillment of all the prophecies. We have not ourselves seen these things, but we have faith that they are true. St. Augustine tells us that “faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” The Mass and so much in our Catholic faith helps keep the eyes of our hearts open to seeing Christ alive in the world, that we may be a witness to all He has done. He has left us the Eucharist as a pledge of His constant presence, and we have faith that He is there as He has promised. Yet we do not see. Our reward for this faith, in the life to come, will be to see the Christ we believed in now without seeing, when we will be blessed even more than the Apostles who saw and believed, as Jesus tells St. Thomas (John 20:29).

The veil of mystery conceals much from our sight, but it need not conceal anything from our hearts. When the serpent of doubt slithers toward our heart, or even when its strangling coils are wrapped around it, do not despair. Rather, reflect upon the lives of those who have gone before you in the faith, those witnesses whose lives are a living testimony to their belief. The Apostles, for the greater part, went to their deaths for what they believed, and still today in the Church numerous men and women lay aside their lives to serve as priests and religious; still today we have martyrs. See, and believe; even a life as a lay member of the Church makes very little sense at all if what we proclaim about Jesus is not true, and it is hard to believe that anyone could point to the example of any one of our saints and say, in all honestly, “There is an example of a wasted life.”

March 31st, 2016