HINDSIGHT, HEADSIGHT, HEARTSIGHT: INSIGHTS TO FAITH

Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
2nd Sunday of Easter/Easter Octave
March 30, 2008

Easter Sunday has come full circle. During the so-called Easter octave (today being the “eighth day”), everyday from Easter Sunday to the 2nd Sunday of Easter, is meant to be each one a celebration of Easter day. Only in the next most important liturgical solemnity does the Church celebrate in full for all of eight days – the Christmas octave. The dramatic scenes of Holy Week have taken a back seat. The pall of semi gloom during the Paschal triduum has given way to the brilliance and ebullient joy of the Easter season. Even the receding color of Lenten purple, has exploded to the dazzling brilliance of Easter white, silver, and gold (or red, for the Chinese inspired cultures all over the world).

The world of nature, at least in temperate zones, assumes an air of newness. It is now springtime, and the coming of spring evokes feelings and thoughts of new life, freshness, and invigorating vitality. In this tropical side of the globe just below the equator, from where I write, Easter does not coincide with anything that approximates spring. There is no marked change of seasons and no gradual rise in temperature, but the celebration of Easter, all the same, evokes freshness and newness, and the birthing of new hope, new life, and new beginnings. The harvests are by now over and done with. The fields will lie fallow for a while during the hot, dry, tropical “summer” months. The plow and harrow will be set aside temporarily. The seeds for sowing are drying in the air and the hot sun, and the farmers and planters are conserving their energy, while excitedly awaiting the coming of the late-summer first rains – the so-called “agua de Mayo,” (the first rains of May), considered as beneficial to health as it is to the meager wealth of people who live close to the soil. There is hopeful excitement on the part of the natural world. Something new is in the offing. Something fresh is afoot.

In both cases, on both sides of the hemisphere, whether temperate or tropical, Easter comes to full flowering in the spirit of hope for absolute newness. For one, the readings speak of new modes of living after the post-resurrection coming down of the Spirit. The early Christian community, we are told in Acts, lived the ideals of a “forward-looking” community, whose members showed more interest in the “communal life, the breaking of bread, and the prayers,” than they did in earthly possessions (1st Reading). We are also reminded that, like gold tested in fire, our faith may prove to be “more precious than gold,” and “may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (2nd Reading). Again, we are reminded that being late, or plain absent the first time around when the risen Jesus showed himself to the gathered disciples, does not necessarily spell disaster for someone like Thomas and his salutary doubt (Gospel reading from John 20:19-31). Initially, this doubting Thomas rooted for no less than a credible sighting, no less than scientific, empirical evidence to what his fellow disciples, gathered in the Upper Room, were unanimously proclaiming. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

I will not believe! … How is that for a quotable quote, for a statement to base one’s life on? I will not believe! … Isn’t this what far too many of us really tell ourselves once too often? Isn’t this the unfolding credo of so many postmoderns like us, who live like as if Christ never suffered, never died, and never rose?

I will not believe! … Isn’t this the statement of those who would rather join the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and refuse to slug it out with the suffering Christ in the torturous road to Calvary on Passion Sunday?

I will not believe! … Isn’t this the attitude of one who shared the intimacy of a meal with friends and followers, who willingly allowed his feet to be washed, but who, moments later, went away in the night to do his deed of darkness, his dastardly act of betrayal?

I will not believe! … Isn’t this the attitude of one who joins the act of “remembering” the Passover of the Lord, but who refuses the “doing” part highlighted by the command to “love one another as I have loved you,” and thus becoming each other’s Passover to new life, like Christ became for all of us?

I will not believe! … Isn’t this the overwhelming attitude of denial that characterizes our postmodern existence – a denial of the totality of the person of Christ, that makes us mere “admirers” and not “disciples,” mere spectators and not active participants in His paschal mystery?

But hold it a second! Before we condemn Thomas and his doubts, let us take a closer look at the Gospel account. There is no compelling evidence to warrant even the slight suspicion that Thomas did, indeed, insist on seeing and touching the wounds of the Risen Lord. Not only did he not insist on his empirical examination. He went beyond what was expected of him. Not only did he not care anymore to see and touch. He also proclaimed beyond everyone’s expectation, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas, the initial doubter, eventually lived by faith, not by sight. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Blessed is Thomas, who, while not “seeing and touching,” believed much more than the fact that His Master is risen. This Master, to him, was more than just risen. He is risen, for now, operating as he does on memory, and not on sight, Thomas “saw and believed.” The hindsight of memory, of a grateful heart that remembers, what we could confidently call “heartsight,” counted now for Thomas as more important than empirical “headsights” or scientific data or proofs.

Nowadays, the sheer power of empirical data to convince anyone to give up traditional, long-held tenets of faith, seems beyond anyone’s control. Ironically, in this age of unfounded and fantastic claims of anyone who espouses any of the many conflicting ideologies, even a pack of lies and a whole lot of half-truths can lead people away from what they perceive to be dogmatic teachings from the Church. People who claim “I will not believe” before the time-tested teachings of Scripture, Tradition, and of Holy Mother Church, ironically take to the teachings of the likes of Dan Brown and his “Da Vinci Code” monumental lies hook, line, and sinker. With no “hindsight” of biblical memory to work on after denying all forms of meta-narratives, with no “heartsights” that can only come from a personal relationship of a disciple and not a mere admirer of Christ, nothing remains but dead “headsights” – mere conceptual and impersonal knowledge of a God who simply claimed, or is reported, to have risen from the dead.

Thomas, our model for today, 2nd Sunday of Easter, did live by faith. But he also lived, it must not be forgotten, equally by sight and memory. Seeing the risen Lord was more than enough for him. Without feeling the need to look nor touch, Thomas actually saw … and believed.

What makes it so hard for postmoderns like us to believe? Let me suggest that Thomas can teach us all more than just a lesson to live by. First, I would like to think that Thomas did see and acknowledge the wounds of Christ. What about us? Do we see the woundedness in the world that is, to use Sally McFague’s metaphorical theology, “God’s body?” Or are we living in splendid isolation and denial, comfortable as we are in our own “comfort zones” of inflexibility and indifference? Have we gotten so much calloused to the reality of war, of graft and corruption, that we cannot anymore do so much as raise a finger in protest to all the suffering that we cause one another in the world, particularly those who have less in life? Have we grown so indifferent to the sufferings of the poorest of the poor, the daily crucifixions being experienced by people who are perpetual victims of various forms of prejudice, biases, and different forms of marginalization in our so-called civil society? How can people who are oblivious to, and deny, the world’s woundedness ever believe in the resurrection? How can people who deny the reality of death ever talk so much of rising from the dead?

Second, Thomas also saw reality other than the wounds of Christ. He saw excited disciples, including women, who proclaimed the resurrection. Thomas saw the effects of the sending of the Holy Spirit. He saw … and believed. What makes us so blind to the reality of the workings of grace in this world of terrorism and unbridled individualism and spiritual malaise? What makes us so blind to the reality of the thousands and thousands of saints who lived holy lives despite the almost impossible situations that surrounded them?

I would like to suggest that faith, in the resurrection of Christ, at bottom, is a matter of hindsight – a matter of grateful remembering. Faith thrives on memory, the sort of memorial that disciples and believers do together, “in remembrance of Him,” who lived, suffered, died, and rose for our sakes. Faith, in the long run, is first and foremost “heartsight” before it is “headsight.” It is the memory of a heart loved, “with an everlasting love” by Him who is the world’s most tremendous lover. It is the “heartsight” of a doubting Thomas, whose salutary doubt is matched only by his love for the Master. On the hindsight of biblical memorial, based on the heartsight of a personal relationship with Christ, material evidences of the resurrection would now count as less important for people whose doubts have been more than amply resolved by love.

That love was all that mattered in the final analysis. Surrounded by empirical proofs and avowed proclamations of faith from fellow disciples, all that Thomas needed was that penetrating look of love from the Risen Lord that gave him that piercing heartsight of one who, setting aside all proofs, simply knelt down in love and declared with the full insight of his humble faith: “My Lord and my God!”

Comments

Anonymous said…
hello father Chito,

I'm an MHC Parishoner who regularly attends your 7:30AM Mass. I've longed to write this for quite some time but have never goteemen around to do so.

I wish to express my thanks to the insights given in your homilies. I thank you for providing "a voice of reason" amidst the the noise of our political situation. Thank you for being a reason to remain as an MHC Parishoner.

I too am confused and I no longer know who to believe, but I do know that the present advocacy will not solve our present problems.

May God continue to shine his light to us through you and may we all learn to discern his true will for our country.

See you on Sunday :o)

Jojo A.
thanks jojo. i am not sure i've met you, but thanks for giving me one additional reason to continue on what i am doing. for additional points please go to my per agrum ad sacrum blogsite, too. all i want is an educated country, prudent and balanced enough not to be carried away by the bandwagon of a mass media crazed culture. God bless us all!

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