Vallombrosa 300x100 12.2017

Faith means hope without ‘seeing’

April 13, 2017
Sister Maria Catherine Toon, OP

Both great writers George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis affirm, “seeing is not believing.” Sight does not make faith. As humans, our reason desires a kind of satisfaction from seeing the truth, but seeing cannot make us believe. Faith means hope without “seeing.”

When Mary Magdalene set out for the tomb on Easter morning with her companion, they were content to stare at the rock face and cry. The two Marys came to “see” the tomb, trusting in the presence of one they could not see. They knew they had not just buried a good dead man. They already believed.

After the shock of an earthquake, the appearance of an angel, and his cry, “Do not be afraid!” ratifies that there is something greater here than Jonah. The women’s faith gives them access to sight. “I know you are seeking Jesus crucified...he is not here...come and see…” Instead, “not seeing” him there became their joy and hope.

Why was it the Marys who saw all this? If Christ died for all, wouldn’t the effect of his resurrection be all the more cataclysmic if it was witnessed by unbelievers? Wouldn’t it have been a greater miracle, and perhaps lead to more conversions if unbelievers had witnessed Christ’s resurrection? What if it was the Roman soldiers who saw everything and ran to tell the Apostles? Wouldn’t Peter have believed them more, because the soldiers were not of their party? But this is not the case. According to Matthew, the soldiers “became like dead men.” They “saw” what generations of prophets predicted would come true; why didn’t they believe?

A few short weeks ago, the Gospel reading from Luke 16, the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, gives us an insight. While he is burning with pain, Lazarus assures Abraham that if his family sees someone from the dead proclaiming the truth, they will believe the ghost and change their lives. Abraham answers in the negative, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). Sight does not make faith. Hearing is the beginning of faith.

Hearing is what engenders faith in us. Hearing the Gospel passages each year that proclaim to the church and all the world how the Passion leads to Christ’s resurrection is essential for our faith to be enriched. We cannot truly know Jesus without this.

After going through the trial of the Passion with Christ, the Marys were rewarded with sight. They receive signs they can see to augment their faith, not to prove to themselves that it’s all true. Sight confirms their belief and makes it sure. But it is Mary Magdalene’s witness to the risen Christ that leads to the faith of the other disciples, even if they doubted at first.

See, go, tell; they become responsible for what they see and for passing it on. And so must we.

Catherine, OP_Sr. Maria - web 100x125Sister Maria is a perpetually professed member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.


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