August 10, 2012


Believing is seeing through the eyes of others

Jesus said to [Thomas], “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn 20:29).

We practical Americans have a saying, “Seeing is believing.”

With St. Thomas the Apostle, we trust our senses more than our imaginations and, so, we would prefer to see or hear or touch or taste or smell something before we affirm its reality.

Faith is not practical, which is not the same thing as saying it’s not real or reasonable.

We believe things that we have not seen or heard or touched, but we are confident in the rightness or reasonableness of what we believe just the same. Why? Because we have been allowed to see through the eyes of others amazing things that we cannot see for ourselves!

We believe that God exists; that he made each one of us and cares for us individually. How do we know this? We didn’t see it for ourselves. We have been given the gift of “new sight,” which allows us to see through the eyes of Jesus what we could never see on our own.

Jesus shows us the Father. He reveals to each of us the loving care that God shows to every one of his creatures—especially to those of us who are made in his image and likeness.

We believe that Jesus Christ, a man like us in all things but sin, is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. We could never have come to this conclusion all by ourselves.

We have been given the testimony of others—witnesses to the death and resurrection of the Lord who were so convinced of what they saw and heard that they were willing to sacrifice their lives to proclaim his good news to the whole world.

When we accept their testimony, we see for ourselves what they saw. We hear with our own ears the words they have repeatedly spoken during 2,000 years of Christian history.

We believe in the Holy Spirit who no one has ever seen, except in symbolic images, and whose very nature is to be invisible and intangible and to whisper—when others are shouting—God’s words of truth, comfort, courage and peace.

The Lord promised to send his spirit, and we believe him. The Holy Spirit “touched” us when we were baptized, confirmed and received our first holy Communion. He teaches, sanctifies and leads us through life’s confusing byways, and we see him not with our own eyes but through the eyes of parents, family members, friends and mentors who show us the path to Christ, the way, the truth and the life.

Believing is seeing through the eyes of others. That’s why there’s no such thing as a purely private faith. That would be a contradiction in terms.

Faith requires trust, the willingness to accept what another tells us—not because we can see it with our own eyes, but because we willingly surrender our supposed autonomy and allow ourselves to trust in the judgment of people we love and respect.

How do I know that God knows me and loves me as an individual person? Jesus tells me this, and I believe him. How do I know that by following Jesus I will find happiness and peace—in spite of all my sins and the sins of the world?

Christian witnesses, including martyrs who sacrificed their lives for what they believed, have spent 2,000 years evangelizing people like me. When I look through their eyes, I see what I could never imagine. I see Christ himself reaching out to me and letting me see him, touch him and hear his voice.

This fall, Catholics in every corner of the globe will begin to observe The Year of Faith. We will celebrate, in a very public way, all those things that we do not see ourselves but accept because of our trust in the witness of others.

As we prepare for this year of rejoicing, let’s thank God for all the people who have served as our teachers and mentors in the faith. They gave us their eyes and ears so that we could see and hear more completely the truth that sets us free.

May God bless each one of them. And may he strengthen us all in our efforts to surrender our practical prejudices so that we can believe with the eyes of faith what we don’t actually see.

—Daniel Conway

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