Believe and Rejoice!
Second Sunday of Easter (Low Sunday). Fr Simon Gaine preaches on the purpose of John’s Gospel.
What’s the point in believing? To put it crudely: what’s in it for us? Does believing in Jesus’ resurrection leave us exactly where we were before? Or does it offer us some advantage?
In today’s Gospel, St John tells us the whole point of why he wrote his Gospel:
These things are written so that you may believe that the Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus, and that believing, you may have life in his name.
John writes to get people to believe, and the whole point of them believing was to have life in Jesus’ name. Everything in Christianity is aimed at us being able to come to this eternal life.
So believing in the resurrection is hardly pointless – it’s the very path to life eternal, and we abandon it at our peril. Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus himself teaches us:
Truly, truly, I say to you, the one who believes has eternal life.
But what is that life? We only have to look at what Jesus says to his Father:
This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Eternal life means to know God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. And to know them is to love them.
Eternal life is a depth of knowing and loving, in which we dwell in God and God dwells in us. It is to know God just as God so completely and perfectly knows himself. It is to love God just as God so completely and perfectly loves himself. This depth of knowledge and love – God’s own knowledge and own love of himself – is to be shared with us. That’s how complete God’s love for us is – he wants to share his own life with us.
If we only had the knowledge and love that goes with human life, we would have no hope of coming to know and love God. God is so high, so immense, so unlimited, that our puny knowledge and love could never reach him. Left to ourselves, we are too weak and limited to grasp God. But if God were to share the resources of his life with us, then hope opens up of us dwelling in God and him dwelling in us.
Because the knowledge and love that go with God’s life can grasp God in all the depth of his being. If anyone can really know God, God can. If anyone can ever really love God as God ought to be loved, then God can. And if God were to share that with us, then we could come to eternal life, by a living and loving faith.
When we believe, we trust what God has told us to be true, what God has told us about himself and what he has told us about his promises. And God has promised that we will know him, that we will see him, and we will be like him, like him in our knowledge, life and love, if only we will believe. Faith begins this knowledge in us, begins in us what will be perfected and so beautifully finished in the life of heaven. Faith leads us to seeing, our imperfect love on earth leads to the perfect love of heaven.
Thomas only believed that Jesus was his Lord and God because he saw that he had risen from the dead. Just like Thomas, we all have to believe that Jesus is Lord and God: none of us has seen that, not even Thomas. But unlike Thomas we have not seen that Jesus is risen. Thomas saw that, like John and the other apostles, but we have to believe in the resurrection as well as in the divinity and lordship of Christ.
And that is for us a blessing, because, as Jesus himself said,
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
The promise is that we shall see in the future, and we shall see a lot more than the resurrected body of Jesus: we shall behold the divinity of Christ and the very face of God in knowing him, loving him, being like him, and enjoying him for ever.
So believing in the resurrection doesn’t just leave us the way we are. To put it crudely: it promises the advantage of the most joyful of outcomes, and so we should rejoice even now. So if you want this outcome, if it awakens your desire, then believe and rejoice!