The blessing of not seeing and yet believing

A couple Sundays ago we had this Gospel reading at the traditional Latin Mass:

[W]hen it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Jn. 20:19-31.

This used to be a puzzle to me: Why are they more blessed who did not see, and yet believed?

I now think it’s because anyone can believe with the eyes of science. There is no blessing in that; it’s mere nature.

As explained before, by “science” I mean “sure and evident knowledge obtained from demonstrations”; basically, seeing things with our own eyes, or figuring them out using our reason. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, knowledge acquired by science, and knowledge acquired by faith are equally certain, the difference being that science is certain about things that it sees, whereas faith is certain about what is unseen (cf. Heb. 11:1):

“Now those things are said to be seen which, of themselves, move the intellect or the senses to knowledge of them. Wherefore it is evident that neither faith nor opinion can be of things seen either by the senses or by the intellect.” (See “St. Thomas Aquinas on faith and doubt“.)

Whereas faith is of things not seen either by the senses or the intellect; of what we can neither see nor figure out for ourselves.

Certainly, “Doubting Thomas” was blessed to have seen and believed. But even more blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed, that is, those who believe by the divine grace of faith, since faith is literally a blessing, a gift from God, and otherwise completely unattainable.

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One thought on “The blessing of not seeing and yet believing

  1. This fits perfectly with John’s message, which is that faith in Jesus is the one and only thing that will get you to the kingdom of heaven. Anyone can believe what they see, but believing without seeing requires faith. Note that Thomas was adopted as the patron saint of Syria, and was adopted by the Gnostics (an early branch of Christianity that was declared a heresy and slowly disappeared over many centuries) as the disciple to whom Jesus revealed his secret teachings (or gnosis). This is why John paints Thomas as the one who doubts, because the Thomasine message (that gnosis was the key to the kingdom) conflicted with Johanian doctrine (that faith alone was the key).

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