by Father Mike Stubbs
Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Which comes first, seeing or believing? Or are the two the same thing? After all, the saying goes, “Seeing is believing.”
In Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jn 11:1-45, Jesus tells Martha, the sister of Lazarus who has recently died, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.”
But then, only a few verses later, after Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead, the Gospel tells us: “Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.” We are getting a mixed message. And we are back where we started.
Perhaps the answer is a bit more complicated than a simple one or the other. Faith can open our eyes and our minds to the possibilities of God’s working in our midst that we would otherwise not see. In that sense, believing enables us to see God’s glory.
On the other hand, seeing some of the amazing things that God does can strengthen us in our faith. It might be on a smaller scale than raising a dead person to life of course. Perhaps it is a wonder of nature or an event in our life.
In any case, seeing it helps us to believe.
Most likely, faith involves a back and forth between seeing and believing — many small steps that lead to a deepening of faith. The more willing we are to trust that God can do wonderful things, the more likely it is that we will see them. And the more that we see, the stronger our faith becomes. It grows through a cumulative effect of the decisions we make and the love that God has for us.
Ultimately, faith is the bottom line for Jesus. That is why he performs the great sign of raising Lazarus from the dead. That is why he does not rush back to the invalid Lazarus to heal him, but allows him to die, to enable the miracle.
As he tells the disciples: “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe.” That is why he tells Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Faith in Jesus Christ will lead to the resurrection of Lazarus. More importantly, it will lead to resurrection to eternal life for all who believe in him.