In this Sunday’s Gospel, John 20: 19-31, Jesus came and stood in the presence of the apostles. One of them, Thomas, was not with them at the time. When the others told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, Thomas refused to believe that it had been the Lord until he could confirm this for himself. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
What makes someone who believes without seeing better than someone who sees? Many people don’t understand why God doesn’t just let everyone know of his presence. From a human perspective, it seems that God would want everyone to know that he exists. However, in reflecting on this Gospel reading, I can see that God allows enough room for anyone to doubt so that everyone may choose whether to believe and to live the message that Christ brought to us. God made the entire universe in a way that enables people to make a truly free and willful choice for God. When the universe is so large and complex and organized in ways that we can understand and in some ways we cannot understand, when we can see the biological elements that compose the human body, it leaves room for those who choose to doubt the existence of God and to believe that all of creation somehow evolved through natural means. Even in the greatest miracles, there remains room for those who choose to believe that something merely natural happened.
Our freedom is what allows us to merit. A robot cannot merit because it has only one choice, to do as it is programmed. Merit cannot be obtained unless there is an option to choose or do otherwise. This is what our freedom allows us to do, to choose otherwise. When God leaves so much room so that nothing is obvious, in which there is as much empirical evidence against God as there is for God, faith becomes more significant and for those who believe, merit becomes greater because they are making that choice to believe without absolute evidence.
If it isn’t obvious that God exists or that God is present and active in our lives, and we still choose God, then we are doing so of our own choice, and like the angels who made the choice to stand by God when some fell away, we will shine brighter because of it.