Spirituality of the Readings
A Leap of Faith
Were you at the Easter Vigil? Incomparable, remember?
A single, tiny light inched its way up the pitch-black aisle. It spread, all at once, absurdly, into more and more glowing dots, now evenly sparsed throughout the pews. A glowing, humble enchantment.
The light of Christ.
Now, one week later, in the Gospel, we find “doubting Thomas.” “Show me the nail marks in his hands, let me put my finger into his side and then I will believe.” Was he laying down conditions for faith? Let us look.
Thomas and the other disciples were not yet exemplars of faith. Huddled in a tiny room with doors locked double tight for fear of the authorities, holding their distress close, with self-protection and doubt.
Was there a speck of dawning light, or was gloom the final word?
Maybe that is why, in each of the New Testament accounts, Jesus appears first to women, not to men. In each case the women believed. Usually he then sent the women to the males, who in their case did not get it, at least not wholly.
Peter and John actually did run to the empty tomb, and Peter went inside. “They did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead,” it says in John 20:9, except that John did, but they went home.
Mary Magdalene was outside. In a heart-burst she knew her beloved. Christ told her not to hang on but to go to his brothers and explain the good news. She did.
Let me tell you a story.
I once knew a man whose doubts were based in deep fear. For a long time he nearly drowned in fear and doubt. He knew, in his mind anyway, that the Holy Spirit was never absent. But in his soul he was walking the edge of the void.
Karl Rahner has said somewhere that when you come to the void there is no proof either way. There can be no certainty as to whether the void is absolute emptiness or whether it is the sheer openness of love. You have to make a choice.
This man’s dear, impoverished self had known only empty echoes for such a long time, but suddenly he remembered Rahner’s dictum. Through grace and circumstance and through being loved, he saw that a choice was possible for him. Not a bravado choice, not even a very clear one, but still a choice.
So he asked himself what, at that level, he did believe. Did he think that his own deep emptiness could produce all the foundations of the universe, the heart of the world, of everyone and everything he had ever known and loved?
Or did he see that imperceptible love was nestling gently throughout every particle that exists? Was there a speck of dawning light, or was gloom the final word?
He told me that his choice was surprisingly simple. It was taken in the absence of any proof, since proofs emerge from choice. His choosing was quiet, like still, small spring rain, in spite of his immersion in darkness. He chose light, which is love, which is “like gold to airy thinness beat.” He made a leap of faith.
In the present day, this man I knew repeats what doubting Thomas will finally say this Sunday. I hope you will be saying it too.
“My Lord and my God.”
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University