The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day:“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”

I once heard a playwright being asked what extra experience he would like to have had in life. His reply was: “I would like to have met Jesus”. One can only surmise what encounter, if any, a playwright, a politician or any other would have had with Jesus, and what, if any, Jesus’ reply would have been to their questions. Matters are different with regard to faith. Jesus is not a person of yesterday, or of another era. He is ever present as a person and influence.

            Let’s go back for a moment to that scene in the upper room, with doors closed. Jesus accepts Thomas’s profession of faith. Thomas has seen the risen Saviour and believed. But, as if casting a glance forward to believers of all ages, in all places, into this twenty-first century, and this particular year, Jesus declares blessed all those who will believe in him down through all the ages. They will not have seen with their physical eyes, but will have done so through the eyes of faith. In his parting discourse at the Last Supper Jesus looked forward in prayer to the same course of faith history, and prays to the Father for all believers (John 17:20): “I ask not only on behalf of these (my disciples now present), but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one”. For the earlier Church, and for later ages, Jesus is near in his empowering, consoling and inspiring presence. Peter is made to address early Christians suffering for their faith in Jesus as follows: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).

            The imitation of Christ is central to the New Testament and to Christianity. Imitation in this sense also implies a personal acquaintance with Christ. It s nicely put in a poem transmitted in Irish folk tradition, as part of an instruction to young people how to prepare for life: “Young person, at the beginning of your life, pay good attention to my teaching. Before you get too old come to a personal acquaintance (aithne) with Christ” – not just knowledge of Christ (eolas), but a personal acquaintance with (aithne) , through faith, an awareness that the presence and prayer which Jesus spoke about to Thomas. Blessed are they who have not seen

and yet have come to believe.

            Eucharistic Acclamation “My Lord and My God”. After the consecration at the Mass the celebrant says “The Mystery of Faith”, and the Roman Missal has provided three acclamations by one of which the congregation can express its faith in this mystery. These three can be used worldwide. At the request of the Irish hierarchy a fourth was permitted for Ireland, but for Ireland only, namely Thomas’s profession of faith “My Lord and my God”. It is entirely fitting that this acclamation was added for Ireland. Long before any renewal of the Mass liturgy, Irish congregations expressed their faith in the real presence at the consecration by these words. A colleague of mine told me that this practice was still observed in his parish in the 1940s. The words are a very fitting expression of faith in the real presence, a presence as real as it was with Thomas on that first octave of Easter Sunday.

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