Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Cycle C)
On the second Sunday of Easter, we reflect upon with careful introspection, the philosophical dilemma of having to believe in what is true yet unknown and unjustified. The rigors of classical epistemology demand that we believe only in what can be known and justified to be true, which was the position of the Apostle Thomas – and is also the most sensible position of our modern-day reasoning. Though no one can be compelled to believe in plain falsehoods, but how then can we better define “faith” in the context of knowing truths which need no justification? How can we help ourselves from our unbelief?
My argument in this essay centers on an idea that detours in a way from our discriminating manner of “knowing only for the sake of knowing,” to the more practical approach of “knowing in order to have hope.” It is the way of “simple knowing” founded on a trust that opens us to the graciousness of the Mystery, the love of the Spirit being its own justification.
Simply said, we choose to believe in and thus know only the Truth which offers mercy and compassion.
What is this way of “simple knowing”? When we look up at the night sky perhaps like many of our primeval ancestors would have done, gazing upwards at the twinkling stars and the dark infinite heavens, our first thoughts may not urgently be concentrated upon the “discovery” of the chemical composition of galaxies, or of the dynamics of force and energy that propel them through the abyssal vacuum of space; nor immediately be riveted upon whether or not such accurate “discovered” astronomical information will be important enough to help me get through my next workday, in satiating my ever-suspicious boss, in surviving urban traffic, or in pacifying my angry customers.
Curiosity therefore, in a context of “everyday-ness” may still typically raise the following metaphysical questions: “What is it?”, “Why does it exist?” and “Does it exist for me and for my existing?” But a more relevant “everyday” epistemology – “simple knowing” – seeks to know “a thing” and the “meaning of the thing,” not that “meaning which means something to itself,” but rather that “meaning which means something to me.” So, for example, in the case of astronomy – perhaps in an amusing affirmation of the continued flourishing of astrology – we say, “I want to know about the stars, and I want to know why the stars are there, not because they are just there but because they are there for me.”
This curiosity – or the “wanting to know why they are there for me” – of an “everyday-person” is most certainly aroused or provoked by what he or she imaginatively thinks must be known or must be believed in for an anticipated existential necessity or even for an aspired future. This may consequently yet indirectly bring us now to the eternal question of the essence of our being: If the eagerness to know what the world is about, how and why it works, may have been brought about by less the cerebral capabilities with which our species have been particularly endowed with, than by this intrinsic expectation of a positively illuminated tomorrow, then “simple knowing” is the project not of homo sapiens but of spes homini – the “everyday-person” who waits and hopes.
Simply said, the “everyday-person” wants to know that which gives and can give it hope, because it is in its underlying uniqueness, a being that hopes. A relevant epistemology as a rethinking of why humans want to know what it wants to know, must consider that the “discovery of reality” is less the ordained vocation and inescapable duty of sapience, but more the natural outgrowth of hope. We do not compel upon ourselves the imperative to the revelation of truth, but that truth is much less strenuously or just allowed to be revealed within the context of an awaited finality. So, people are and must not be pressured to try to know all truth, but that every individual or generation constituted from within its historical or cultural location, will be inclined and will choose to know what it wants to know and to believe in what it wants to believe in, in relation to the hope it has that a better morrow exists, and that its acquired knowledge and chosen beliefs will sustain it for this morrow: The “everyday-person” will want to know that which gives hope, and will ignore or refuse to know that which does not give hope. It is much easier to see now why “simple knowing” – or a “less-forced knowing” – embraces much more excitement and fascination with what has yet to be discovered, because its revelation will effectuate and is accompanied by the pleasure and the contentment in an eventual and realizable upliftment.
Our primeval ancestors contemplated the cosmos and formed patterns around burning suns that are millions of light-years apart, thinking that they are being watched by the gods. Is it merely an accidental thought that they would like to have a menagerie of deities, or are they fueled by a desire to be protected by them, amidst a cruel and inescapable world of “prey-and-predator”? Is this crude systematization of the stars not the mental outcome of an innate curiosity which emotionally expresses hope in the coming worth waiting for?
Or why will we insist on believing in inexplicable miracles, in enigmas of physical healing and spiritual transformation, of restoration and redemption? For those of us who need not pray for happiness because we can with our own efforts make ourselves “happy,” no explanation for miracles can be satisfactory. For those of us who are in despair for happiness, and our only chance lies with him who is Love, no explanation for miracles will be necessary.
Hope is what makes us human. Hope is what supports humanity in “simple knowing” to persevere in its precarious living of life. When we lose hope, we lose the motivation to know and to continue to believe, because despair forces us to stare into the blankness and gloominess of an unfulfilling or an already-unfulfilled potentiality.
He who is Love assures us, “Do not be afraid. It is I, the First and the Last. I am the living one; I was dead; and now I am alive, forever and ever; and mine are the keys of death and the netherworld.” Hence, when we kill hope by persisting or by reproaching others in the doubt of Love, we kill life itself.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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