Only this week did I hear about an upcoming miniseries, titled Sotto il Cielo di Roma (Under the Roman Sky). It deals with the efforts of Venerable Pope Pius XII to protect the Jewish citizens of Rome from Nazi persecution. It stars James Cromwell as the Holy Father.
Could this be just what we need to deter the ongoing misguided reports about the non-action of this pope? Let’s hope so. If one man deserves that the truth of his life be told, it is Pius XII.
The Catholic News Agency reported earlier that Pope Benedict XVI watched the series last Friday. It is not yet know what he thought of it.
Today we hear the Gospel about St. Thomas who refuses to believe in the Resurrection until he has seen the evidence. Only when Jesus appears to the Apostles and invites Thomas to lay his hand in His side and see and feel His wounds, does Thomas believe. He accepts the full truth of the Risen Lord with a simple but heartfelt “My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 28)
Jesus gently rebukes him and says a seemingly simple line about the nature of Christian belief: “You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20: 29).
That final line gives a statement about the value of belief. It is easy for us to believe in the existence of, say, a table, a cat, or our neighbour. We can see them, touch them, and, in the case of the neighbour, speak to them and expect an answer. This is a very basic notion of belief; I see so I acknowledge the existence of what I’m seeing. But basic as it is, it dictates much of our daily life. After all, we must know that what we see and wish to interact with is truly there.
But the notion of belief that Christ employs is different. The acknowledgement of the reality of existence of what we believe in – God, Christ, the Resurrection – is an inseparable part of that, but there is more. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” presupposes a sense of trust. We have not seen it, but we rely on the knowledge of others to belief in the reality of something.
Faith requires such a notion. It is not enough to simply say, “Oh, I’ll accept that God exists”. That;s not enough, because it says nothing about the relationship between us and Him. But including trust and faith into our sense of belief does, or at least it makes a start.
Even when we say that we have faith in somebody, indicates that we trust that that person is capable of something, that he or she can do good, or whatever. It is the same with our faith in God. Based on what we have learned about Him, through Scripture, the Tradition of His Church and the teachings of writers and theologians throughout the ages, we have faith in Him: we trust that he is capable of our salvation.
We have not seen Him, but that makes this faith more pure: the trust we place in Him is not a human faith. It transcends it, just like Christ far transcended His human nature.
Blessed is he who is able to transcend his human nature and put his faith in Who he has not yet seen.