Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Low Sunday—30 March AD 2008
“This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.”[1]

Caravaggio’s Doubting Thomas[2]

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Text]
[Latin Text]

    In the Old Testament Law of Moses, judicial proceedings (and a fortiori, the death penalty) were sustained by the testimony of at least two witnesses, and our Lord and His Apostles confirm this in the New Testament.[3]  Of course, there was an opportunity to produce opposing witnesses or to cross examine the witnesses to see that their testimonies agreed with each other.  Just a few weeks ago, during Lent, we read the story of Daniel and Susanna, where two false witnesses against her were rebutted by taking their testimonies separately and finding that they did not agree.[4]

    On several occasions, our Lord spoke to the Pharisees, insisting that they believe His teachings because He spoke not only with His own authority but with that of His Father in Heaven.[5]  “It is I who bear witness to Myself, and He who sent Me, the Father, bears witness to Me.”[6]  Now, one might object, on behalf of the Pharisees, that Jesus’ second witness was not around to be seen, and perhaps, that being one’s own witness was not very reassuring for those asked to believe.  But this was not exactly true.  Certainly, a good number of flesh and blood witnesses could give testimony to the Baptism of Jesus, when the Holy Ghost appeared visibly and “descended upon Him in the bodily form of a dove,” and the voice of the Father came from Heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son, in Thee I am will pleased.”[7]  Indeed, this testimony is given in nearly identical words in all three of the synoptic Gospels.  And there is the same matching of testimony at the time of the Transfiguration, witnessed by Peter, James, and John.[8]  There is a hint in today’s epistle that the Father and the Holy Ghost bear witness to the Son.  “The testimony of God is greater than that of men, He has borne witness concerning His Son.”[9]

    The miracles of our Lord also provided testimony to His teaching:  “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.”[10]  Perhaps in isolation it might be possible to chalk up a miracle or two to dumb luck or psychosomatic cure—but when you consider the large number of miracles and the ease with which He worked them, they surely bear witness to His divinity and the truth of His teaching.

    The healing of lepers is particularly significant because it was the priests of the Temple who made the determination that a man had leprosy in the first place, and it was again the priests who had the exclusive ability to pronounce that the same man had been cured.[11]  Jesus Healed lepers on a number of recorded occasions, and priests who examined them should have been highly influential witnesses on His behalf—Jesus always sent them to the priests.[12]

    The Gospels record that our Lord raised people from the dead on at least three different occasions: the son of a widow at Naim, the daughter of the synagogue president, and Lazarus at Bethany.[13]  Not to mention His own resurrection from the dead, such miracles are again powerful testimony in favor of our Lord and His teaching.

    But even among His own Apostles—men who traveled with Him, sharing the hardships of His mission and seeing all that He did—even among these there was incredulity.  Last Monday we read that two disciples on the road to Emmaus doubted the possibility of the Resurrection until they met Jesus Himself, and recognized Him “in the breaking of the bread.”[14]  And today we read about Saint Thomas, who refused to believe his fellow Apostles until he not only saw Jesus for himself, but was able to touch the wounds of the crucifixion with his own hands.

    All of these things are recorded, Saint John tells us so that we “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing [we] may have life in His name.”[15]  If anything, the initial disbelief of Thomas, and the physical evidence which he examined, followed by his overwhelming belief, make us even more certain of this testimony

    This “belief” is called “faith.”  It is belief in something we could not have known through natural reason, but only because God has chosen to reveal it—either directly as He did to the prophets in the Old Testament or to the disciples of Jesus in the New Testament—or indirectly as it is revealed to us through their testimony as it is recorded in Scripture and Tradition, and passed down through the Church.  We believe the things of faith because they are revealed by God—God who is unchanging and incapable of deception for He is Truth Itself—His Son Jesus speaks of Himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father but through Me.”[16]

    The sin of disbelief, then, is the sin of hearing God’s word about Himself, and refusing to accept what He tells us.  The sin of disbelief is essentially the sin of making God out to be a liar.  The sin of disbelief is invariably accompanied by coldness of heart, for the unbeliever can never love God.

    Be sure that you understand that faith is not simply an act of the human intellect.  God reaches out with what we call “prevenient grace,” to prepare our minds to accept His truth.  But man always retains his free will, and a person who is too highly attached to the things of the world, may well push this grace aside—particularly if he sees unwelcome responsibilities and onerous duties associated with profession of the Catholic Faith.

    But it is precisely, as Saint John says, “our Faith which overcomes the world.”  Faith is not a guarantee that things will always go well for us.  It is not a matter of faith that we will always be successful in our endeavors;  not a matter of faith that we will always be free from hunger and thirst and sickness.  But we do know by Faith that “God will not tempt us beyond our strength, but with the temptation will always give us a way out.”[17]  But the point is that by holding fast to what God has reveled about Himself, and what He wants of us, we will be rewarded with nothing less than the direct perpetual vision of God Himself.  To the degree that such a thing is possible, the creature will possess the Creator in eternity.

    Those who believe;  those who reach out and accept God’s gift of grace, will believe everything He has revealed, on His authority alone.  By their belief they will know God and come to love Him.  This Faith and this Charity give us Hope, the virtue by which we prudently expect the rewards of Heaven, as we overcome and go beyond the things of the world.

“This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.”

[1]   Epistle: 1 John v: 4-10


[3] Numbers 35:30;   Deuteronomy 17:6;   Deuteronomy 19:15;

Matthew 18:16;   2 Corinthians 13:1;   1 Timothy 5:19;   Hebrews 10:28

[4]   Saturday of the Third Week of Lent:  Daniel xiii: 1-62.

[5]   Passion Sunday: John viii: 46-59;   Wednesday in Passion Week: John x: 22‑38.

[6]   Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent: John viii: 12-20.

[7]   Luke iii: 22. Cf. Matthew iii: 16-17;  Mark i: 10-11.

[8]   Matthew xvii: 1-9;  Mark ix: 1-7  Luke ix: 28-36; 

[9]   Cf. Epistle: 1 John v: 4-10.

[10]   Matthew xi: 5.

[11]   Leviticus xiv & xv;  Deuteronomy xxiv: 8.

[12]   Matthew viii: 2-4;   Mark i: 40-45;   Luke v: 13-14;   Luke xvii: 11-17

[13]   Luke vii: 11-17;   Luke viii: 40-56;  John xi: 1-44.

[14]   Luke xxiv: 13-35.

[15]   Gospel:  John xx: 19-31.

[16]   Cf. John xiv: 6;  xviii: 37.

[17]   1 Corinthians x: 13.






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