Padre’s Corner

St. Brendan’s Chapel at Stadacona.
Photo: CFB Halifax

“Unless I see, I will not believe”

By Capt Innocent Inienwe,
Chaplain, TEME, Blog, FMF Cape Scott, CFB Halifax

Today a lot of people struggle with believing things without seeing them. This holds true of the saying, “Seeing is believing.”

In the scriptures we hear about the Doubting Thomas who never believed or refused to believe in the resurrection of the Lord unless he saw the risen Christ face to face.

John 20: 24-29 tells us that a few days after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples but one of them, Thomas who was called the twin, was not with them. And so the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord,” and he replied, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in the side, I will not believe.”

A few days later Jesus appeared again to them but this time Thomas was present. Jesus went straight to him and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it in My side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas then made the great proclamation of faith, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed, Thomas, because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Many in our society today are like Thomas; unless we have an experiential knowledge of something, we can never believe it. Unless we can feel and touch something, it doesn’t exist. We want to see, we want to experience and touch before we believe.

My mother is not an exception here. When as a teenager after high school, I enrolled to serve in the Nigerian Navy, my mother found out and was very distraught about it. I was stopped from becoming a Marine for two reasons; first for family reasons as the first son, who according to Igbo tradition has the duty to keep the family name and tradition. Secondly, it would be a risky venture. She did not want me to die. She wanted me to get married someday and have children that will keep the family name.

Sometimes, “Man proposes but God disposes.” Our thoughts and ways are not God’s thoughts and ways for us. His ways and wishes for us might sometimes be different from the way we think or wish for ourselves.

A few years later I responded to the solemn call to serve God as a Catholic priest. This meant that I could never get married nor have children of my own. Surprisingly, my mother did not object to this decision, perhaps as a very strong and faithful Catholic that she is. She did not bother if I had children or not, if the family name was kept or not. She was very happy and excited that her son will be a priest and she will be call Mama Fada (Father’s mother)

After a few years of my ministry in Canada, I decided to follow my teenage dream of being in the military. So I enrolled into the chaplaincy branch of the CAF. I called my mother and told her about my new status thinking she would rejoice and be happy for me. I was wrong because that was not what I got. She was very furious and wondered why I “left” the priesthood. In spite of all attempts to explain to her that I was still a priest but serving in the military, she did not believe me. How else could I convince her but to bring her to Canada and show her what I do and to prove to her that I still celebrate mass and do priestly duties even as an Army officer.

It was not until my mother visited Canada, went with me to mass at the Base Chapel and watched me actually celebrate mass that she finally believe that I am still a priest even though in uniform. You could imagine the kind of relief and contentment she had after the mass. She now believes because she has seen.

There is nothing like seeing something for yourself, with your two eyes. Sometimes it is the best way to believe in something. The same is true for spiritual things that can be seen not with our natural eyes but with our spiritual eyes, or both. But we have always to remember what Jesus said to Thomas; “Blessed are those who have not seen but have come to believe.” Be among the blessed during this Easter Season. Happy Easter to all.