May/June 2011 - Vol. 50

..Recognizing the Presence of Jesus
By Romano Guardini
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place  my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." 
- Gospel of John, Chapter 20
Our Lord did not call him [Thomas] blessed. He had been allowed to `see,’ to see the hands and the side, and to touch the blessed wounds, yet he was not blessed!

Perhaps Thomas had a narrow escape from a great danger. He wanted proofs, wanted to see and touch; but then, too, it might have been rebellion deep within him, the vainglory of an intelligence that would not surrender, a sluggishness and coldness of heart. He got what he asked for: a look and a touch. But it must have been a concession he deplored having received, when he thought on it afterwards. He could have believed and been saved, not because he got what he demanded; he could have believed because God’s mercy had touched his heart and given him the grace of interior vision, the gift of the opening of the heart, and of its surrender.

God could also have let him stay with the words he had spoken: in that state of unbelief which cuts itself off from everything, that insists on human evidence to become convinced. In that case he would have remained an unbeliever and gone on his way. In that state, external seeing and touching would not have helped him at all, he simply would have called it delusion. Nothing that comes from God, even the greatest miracle, proves out like two by two. It touches one; it is only seen and grasped when the heart is open and the spirit purged of self. Then it awakens faith. But when these conditions are not present there are always reasons to be found to say solemnly and impressively that it is all delusion, or that such-and-such is so because some other thing is so. Or the excuse that is always handy: We cannot explain it yet… the future will enlighten us about it!

Thomas was standing a hair’s breadth away from obduracy and perdition. He was not at al blessed.

Blessed indeed are `those who have no seen, and yet have learned to believe!’ Those who ask for no miracles demand nothing out of the ordinary, but who find God’s message in everyday life. Those who require no compelling proofs, but who know that everything coming from God must remain in a certain ultimate suspense, so that faith may never cease to require daring. Those who know that the heart is not overcome by faith, that there is no force or violence there, compelling belief by rigid certitudes. What comes from God touches gently, comes quietly; does not disturb freedom; leads to quiet, profound, peaceful resolve within the heart. And those are called blessed who make the effort to remain open-hearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of all self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, inclination to `know better.’ Who are quick to hear, humble, free-spirited. Who are able to find God’s message in the gospel for the day, or even from the sermons of preachers with no message in particular, or in phrases from the Law they have heard a thousand times…

[This excerpt is from the book, The Inner Life of Jesus, by Romano Guardini, originally published in German, Jesus Christus, geistliches Wort, 1957. English translation copyright © 1959 by Regnery Publishing, Inc.]

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