Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when he stood among his disciple, alive from the grave, showing his wounds? Were you there when he ascended into heaven? No, you were not. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29). “We walk by faith not by sight,” says St. Paul (2 Cor. 5:7).
The distinction, however, between the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who saw him, and all subsequent disciples, who have not seen him, blurs significantly as the Spirit of the Risen Lord fills the Church and her members and gives the Church a full range of sacraments and sacramental signs by which we see, touch, taste, smell, and hear the Real Presence of Christ — water and oil, wine and bread, readings and music, preaching and processions, incense and bells, candles and embroidery, color and texture, days and weeks, season of feasting and fasting, art and science, culture and nature.
In a sense, we are not so different from the first disciples. Faith must be drawn out of us, and only the power of Christ can do that. Mere physical sight is not enough. It was not enough for the first disciples, who often did not recognize the Risen Lord, and it is not enough or even possible for us.
Notice a detail in St. John’s story. “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19). Jesus passed through locked doors and appeared alive from the dead! Our natural expectation is amazement and belief solely at his appearing. Instead, leading them beyond mere sight and into the mystery of his suffering — that is, his anguished and yet victorious love for them and the whole cosmos — he showed them his hands and his side. “Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). Seeing his wounds, the disciples recognized the Lord. Remembering their betrayal and fear, they recognize the one whom they pierced, and yet they behold him transfigured and flowing with love and peace.
Notice too that doubting Thomas needed something more than mere sight. Hearing from the other disciples that Jesus appeared to them, Thomas did not say, “Unless I see him, I will not believe.” Instead, he insisted, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Eight days later, appearing again to the disciples, Jesus addressed Thomas with a series of imperatives: Put out your finger. See my hands. Reach out your hand. Put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe. The wounds of Jesus open the eyes of faith.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Believing, however, is spiritual seeing and knowing. By the gift of faith, we see, hear, touch, taste, and even smell the sweet odor of Christ’s Real Presence. Put forth your hand and take his body. Drink the blood of his love and sorrow. Do not doubt, but believe. The one who died for you is alive and making all things new with a visceral love. Go to him with all your heart.
Look It Up: Read 1 Peter 1:6.
Think About It: The Risen Lord has his wounds, and we have our various trials. Tested by fire, we are receiving the outcome of our faith and waiting for salvation to be revealed in the last time.