Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Because faith is hard work, we often look for easier ways to manage it. We suppose, with Saint Thomas, that we might believe if we had proof of the various doctrines of faith. Even those who practice religion forget how difficult it is. They argue with coworkers and friends and their siblings, “If you would just go to church…” or “pray…” or “read this book you would believe as I do.”
I like to do crosswords and Sudoku. Those puzzles are solved by progress from the known to the unknown. With each box answered correctly the solution becomes clearer. If only life were like that! But the reason we enjoy games like that is precisely because they are not like life; they provide a respite from the daily anxiety of faith.
Traditional science also moves from known to unknown by way of small, incremental discoveries. Scientists accumulate facts with the hope they will lead to better theories and, ultimately, to the Truth. That method has been so successful in hard science we wonder why we can’t use it for the challenges of life outside the laboratory.
But there is no spiritual shortcut for the one who would move from known facts to an unknown faith in God. Grasping at facts is precisely the wrong way forward.
Facts are not persons; they are impersonal. That’s why they are so attractive, and why they cannot substitute for faith. They can be grasped, managed, defined, analyzed and re-analyzed, interpreted, explained and dismissed. You can’t do any of that with a person who stands before you, as Jesus stood before Thomas.
The worse tendency of the Pharisees (and of Christians) is to depersonalize God. They reduce God to rules, rituals, creeds, beliefs and opinions. They stare at icons, statues and symbols but do not see the Lord through these sacramental signs.
He -- the Lord -- won’t stand for it! Neither will life, which is continually demanding a savior. Caught between God and Life the Pharisee prevaricates, hesitates, stalls for time. Terrified, she tries to maintain control of the situation even as Jesus is saying “Come to me” and Life is saying “Go to him!”
Finally, when Jesus slams the door on signs – “No sign will be given” -- we must turn to him like Saint Thomas and say, “My Lord and my God!”