3-31-16 - Blind Faith

We often associate faith with vision; insight, perception, illumination are all words connected to sight. But when we think about it, true faith means being willing to live blind, to trust in what we cannot see.

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.” (This Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

Thomas was strong and courageous, devoted and steadfast. But he was short on faith – and until he was willing to become blind, he would never see.

Those who lack physical vision need to trust in many things – helpers, service animals, canes, the goodwill of the people around them. Many also report that, in the absence of sight, other senses become more acute. A sight-impaired person might feel a disturbance in the air that tells them someone has come into or left a room, or recognize someone by their scent, or find their hearing sharpened.

So it is with the life of faith. We voluntarily put our trust in things and people we cannot see, and as we do, we find our spiritual senses become more keenly developed. Maybe we become more sensitive to people in pain, or we can sense the presence of evil more acutely. As we spend time in prayer, we come to recognize the presence of Jesus, God as Father, the Holy Spirit. And as we learn to step out in faith when we feel the Spirit nudge us to do or say something, we often find those nudges become more frequent and vivid. We are learning to walk by faith, not by sight.

Jesus gave Thomas a break – he showed up again and let him see him, touch his wounds. “Do not doubt, but believe,” he said. And then he added a word for us: Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

I would go so far as to say we cannot grow in faith if we are not willing to become blind, to stop relying so heavily on what we can see with our eyes and perceive with our minds, to truly trust the instinctual life of the Spirit in and around us. What we perceive with our physical senses sometimes causes our faith to falter – we see the pain of the world, the ongoing illness of those for whom we have prayed, and that “evidence” can shut us down. Jesus invites us to lean instead on what cannot be seen, what can only be believed.

Only then will our vision become sharp enough to see God.

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