Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass during Couples for Christ Conference
Baltimore Washington Marriott
July 3, 2009
ABlessed are those who have not seen and have believed.@
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Our Lord Jesus Christ,
We are gathered together on this feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, on the occasion of this meeting of Couples for ChristCFoundation for Family and Life. I am grateful to have this time to be with you in support of your ecclesial mission and to reaffirm the significance of your witness to marriage and family life.
Today I hope to offer a few reflections on our Gospel reading, which describes the doubt of Thomas before he encounters the risen Lord:
Upon hearing the news of the risen Christ, Thomas reacts by saying, AUnless 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.@ He expresses a natural human perspective, which demands physical evidence and proof . So often we are limited to only this viewpoint, afraid of daring to go higher.
But faith offers a supernatural perspective, transcending earthly realities in a way that surpasses our understanding. Indeed, faith is extraordinary. Faith gives us the supernatural outlook that enables us to view all people, situations, and circumstances with God=s eyes, rather than our limited human perspective.
Faith goes beyond our naturally limited notions. When God achieves a great work, He can do it through the most unexpected channels. There are many examples of this in the Bible. In the Old Testament, for example, Abraham and Sarah have a son, Isaac, despite their old age. There is also the story of King David. As a young boy, he defeated the giant soldier, Goliath. And, when it was time to select a new king for the people of Israel, it was not a man of high stature whom he chose to be king; it was the lowly shepherd boy, David.
At the Annunciation, we see a beautiful and simple expression of faith when the Virgin Mary is informed by an angel that she is to be the mother of God. Here, we have a case of an unmarried adolescent, with wisdom and grace beyond her years, who responds to God with a resounding Ayes@ to the aweBinspiring mission ahead of her. She could not have anticipated the future Asword that would pierce her heart,@ yet her Ayes@ was total, free, and unconditional. It was a great act of faith.
But faith is something extraordinary and not always easy to embrace. Thomas reacts, not with faith, but with natural, human expectations. How does Christ respond?
Christ gives a peaceful greeting and allows Thomas to touch him: APut your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.@
Christ has infinite patience with us. When we have doubts and fears, He never stops reaching out to us with his love. He wants us to love Him back, he wants us to trust him completely. We sometimes lack faith because the realities of the world press in on us: a financial situation, a job situation, a difficulty in the family, and other factors. When these concerns cloud our hearts, we begin to lose the clear vision of faith that frees us.
Trust Christ! Have faith! Do not be afraid to trust Christ completely, offering Him your worries and fears, your joys and hopes. Jesus, I trust in you! This is the great exclamation of the Church. It is only through trust that you will begin to experience the depths of Christ=s love for you. And when you begin to experience this love, deeply and profoundly in your lives, you cannot help but see the world around you differently.
This is the experience of Thomas when Christ shows him His wounds and allows Thomas to touch him. Thomas responds with the words, AMy Lord and my God!@Ca profound expression of wonder and awe, and ultimately, of faith. This is the moment of transformation for Thomas.
Christ says, ABlessed are those who have not seen and have believed.@ Thomas and the other disciples had the privilege of living with Christ in their midst everyday. What a gift it must have been to live side by side with Christ and see him in the fullness of his humanity! What a privilege, to be able to converse with him, to share meals with him, to observe and learn from his example when he dealt with the different personalities and characters from all walks of life! What must it have been like to see his joy at the wedding at Cana, his tears at the tomb of Lazarus, his diligence and humility in his carpenter=s work, and his leadership and authority with the crowds?
We do not have that privilege as the disciples did, but Christ does speak to us now these special words: ABlessed are those who have not seen and have believed.@ We cannot see Christ as the disciples did, but He is no less present to us now in the world. He remains with us in the Eucharist. I encourage you, especially as married couples and as families, to develop a strong Eucharistic life where you can draw close to Christ to find the strength to deal with the many challenges you face in your daily lives.
And so I say once again: trust Jesus Christ! He waits for you in the many lonely tabernacles of the world. He waits for your love, and it is through you that He wishes to make known His presence in the world. As the first apostles were messengers of Christ, so too do you bear witness to His love through your lives!
In a special way, dear married couples, you are called to radiate this love through your spousal fidelity as a sign of Christ=s fidelity to his bride, the Church. In a world in a culture where lifelong commitment is increasingly scoffed at, where virtue is mocked more often than rewarded; how greatly your joyful, firm and faithful witness is needed. You are to be beacons of light in the world.
Equally important, dear married couples, is your great gift and responsibility as parents. The family is the first school of the faith. The family is the source of the child=s development as a person in all dimensions: the intellect, the heart, the will, and the soul. Dedicate yourselves to forming your children with a deep awareness of Christ=s love; and, as husband and wife, model this love through your respect and affection for each other.
In a society where family life is suffering severe setbacks, broken marriages, the attacks of the media and other social influencesCall these threaten to destroy the very foundation upon which society is built. Draw close to Christ in the sacraments to maintain always your perspective of faith. Continue to build up your marriage and family life through your mutual support and encouragement with others who share the same values. You already are united by a common ideal through your involvement in Couples for Christ. Such is an example of the gift of movements in the Church that provide a support for those in the married and lay state.
Remember these words of our Lord Jesus Christ: ABlessed are those who have not seen and have believed.@ If you have faith, you will see the world differently, not from a human perspective, but with a supernatural view. This vision of faith will bring to your ordinary everyday activities a fresh divine perspective. If you see the world differently, with the eyes of Christ, you will be able to radiate His love to all you meet. You are a light in this world, because you reflect the light that is Christ. In your marriage and family life, you are to be a witness, a reflection, a mirror of that Love which is so powerful yet gentle, sacrificial yet victorious, so instant yet eternal.
May God give you grace and strength, dear friends, in the days to comeCgrace and strength to fulfill your role, to be partners in the Church with the Lord Jesus Himself in building up His Kingdom in your families, in your parishes, and in the worldCa Kingdom of holiness and truth, a Kingdom of peace, a Kingdom of life and love. Amen.