The Fear of Missing Out is a real thing, especially since social media took over our lives a few years ago, so much so that someone has developed an acronym for it (FOMO) which you’ve all heard of by now. Of course, nowadays, with no one doing anything, FOMO is not such a big deal.
Thomas may not have experienced FOMO, since he heard about how Jesus appeared to his disciples after the fact – maybe it was MAMO – mad about missing out. Or maybe he just really couldn’t believe that it had actually happened, because it was so extraordinary, so beyond what we are familiar with: how can anyone rise from the dead? But Jesus made it clear that he was no ghost, but that he was truly flesh and blood again – he had his disciples touch him and he ate with them.
So when Thomas heard about all this, he understandably found it hard to believe. But then a week later Jesus suddenly “stood in their midst” again, passing through the locked doors. And he urged Thomas who had doubted that he had risen from the dead to touch his hands where the nails had been, and his side which had been pierced by a sword. And then Thomas believed, and made his beautiful profession of faith with the simple words, “My Lord and my God!”
But Jesus says, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Those words are meant for all Christians who have come in the many generations since Jesus ascended into heaven and no longer walks about on this earth, and that includes all of us. We do not have the advantage of seeing the risen Jesus with our own eyes, or of touching his hands and his side with our own hands. That is why Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and believed.”
Faith is necessary. It is the fundamental element for everything that we believe. Believing without seeing implies faith. There are so many things that we are asked to believe without directly experiencing. Almost everything we hear about in the news requires a certain level of faith. For example, unless we actually go to the place where the news is happening, when it’s happening, we have to rely on the testimony of others. Granted, we are usually given information and images that help us to trust what we are told. Although certainly not always – in every age, including our own, information and images can be manipulated and altered. So the struggle to trust everything we read about or see on the news persists even in our own day.
But faith in Jesus Christ goes beyond believing what we hear about on the news. All of us have received our faith from someone else – whether a parent, a friend, a catechist, a teacher, or even through reading Scripture (which was after all written by another human being) – our faith has been passed down to us through the ages from one generation to the next, going all the way back to the time of the apostles and all those who were witnesses to the Risen Christ. So when Jesus spoke the words, “Blessed are those who have not seen and believed,” he was speaking to each one of us also.
That is the challenge of faith – believing without the direct experience of our own senses. And there are times in life when it’s easier to believe – perhaps when things are going our way – than at other times – such as when the Lord seems to be absent, when it seems like our prayers are going unanswered, when tragedy strikes or life gets difficult. Perhaps this is one of those times for you. This is sadly the sixth Sunday without a congregation, and while the new infection rates are dropping and we hear about how some countries in Europe and Asia are starting to open up again very gradually, we still don’t know how much longer the shutdown will last, or more importantly when we’ll have a vaccine for this insidious virus. We’re all right in the middle of an experience none of us has ever gone through before; there’s no rule book or set of guidelines to which we can turn to help us navigate this crisis. It is precisely in times like these when we must renew our faith in the Risen Christ, that Jesus has risen from the dead, that in doing so he has conquered sin and death, and that he offers us too the promise of one day triumphing over sin and death ourselves. We must renew our faith and our hope in the Lord, that he is still with us, that he is always with us, even now, and that he will always be with us.
St. Peter says in our second reading today, “…although now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The trials that he was referring to were at least in part related to persecution Christians were experiencing because they believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but his words are applicable to any suffering we might experience. And then St. Peter goes on to tell us what the goal of our faith is: the salvation of our souls.
Faith has a goal: our salvation. We are currently living through what you could call the age of faith. This is the time when we are called to have faith. But one day, our faith will give way to the reality of the loving presence of God, when we will see him face to face. When our faith is tested, it has the opportunity to grow and increase. And the more faith we have and the stronger our faith becomes, the more we will be able to face the challenges and the struggles of this life; the more we will be prepared to come face to face with the Lord when He comes again.