I am the daughter of a petroleum geologist. He was a man who loved the natural world. On Saturdays when he didn’t have to work he’d take us places where the substrata of the earth was laid bare in outcrops of rock or canyon walls. He would read the rocks, shaping for us the story of the mud of inland seas hardened to stone then lifted up by cataclysmic force to form the bones of mountains. His thoughts spanned eons of time.
But he didn’t have the scope to find God in the midst of what he found awesome and beautiful. He was one of those materialists who believed that if you couldn’t see it and touch it, either with the naked eye or with scientific instruments, it didn’t exist.
He was very like Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, as a matter of fact. Thomas seems to be saying in today’s reading from the Gospel of John, “You can’t convince me that Jesus has come back from the dead. If I can’t see his wounds and touch them, then this resurrection stuff is all a giant hoax.”
Jesus does Thomas the favor of giving him some scientific proof. “Put your fingers here,” he says. Put your hand here. Look and touch. Do not doubt, but believe.” And Thomas does.
But then Jesus admonishes him. “You believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Jesus is telling Thomas — and the rest of his disciples, too; they aren’t off the hook on this one — to listen with the ears of the heart. Listen for the possibility which is counter-intuitive but which satisfies an inner knowing. It might be contrary to all expectations. It might at every level defy what you think you know. But a place within you that is deeper than intellect will draw you toward it. It will feel joyous, and compassionate, and true. Listen for that.
It is not in my mind that my belief is centered. It is not in my ego personality. My mind is a wondrous thing, and I love it for its creativity and ability to question and explore. But it doesn’t serve me here. When I think about Jesus, his life, death and resurrection — when I think of God — I doubt. Looking at the salvation story from the vantage of my ego does not relieve me of fear. I find myself thinking maybe the story is true, maybe it isn’t. I can come up with half a dozen explanations as to why Jesus’ followers might have been deluded into thinking their rabbi was back among them after having been so obviously killed up on that cross, scientific proof notwithstanding. The mind is an instrument whose function in part is skepticism, and mine is good at that.
Instead I have to listen with the ears of my heart. My belief comes straight out of that part of me in which Christ dwells already, and has dwelt since before the beginning of time. It comes from my heart, the true center of my person, the seat of my Soul. My Soul knows.
Image: Caravaggio “The Incredulity of St. Thomas” (Public Domain)