For Sunday, April 15, 2012
Second Sunday of Easter
1 John 5:1-6
In two extremely insightful online commentaries for the New York Times, Professor Stanley Fish addresses issues of evidence, faith, and science. These are some of the very issues that we confront in this weekend's Gospel, when the risen Lord appears to the disciples in the absence of Thomas.
Professor Fish's first commentary reflected on a segment of the March 25 broadcast of "Up w/ Chris Hayes" on MSNBC. This part of the program addressed the issue of skepticism in science and religion particularly as reflected in the debate around global warming. Professor Fish delighted in the fact that noted atheist Richard Dawkins stated that the conclusions of scientific investigation must be trusted and believed because you can take a scientific study and, in Dawkins' words, "you can actually cite chapter and verse."
Professor Fish continues: "With this proverbial phrase, Dawkins unwittingly (I assume) attached himself to the centuries-old practice of citing biblical verses in support of a position on any number of matters, including, but not limited to, diet, animal husbandry, agricultural policy, family governance, political governance, commercial activities and the conduct of war. Intellectual responsibility for such matters has passed in the modern era from the Bible to academic departments bearing the names of my enumerated topics. We still cite chapter and verse—we still operate on trust—but the scripture has changed (at least in this country) and is now identified with the most up-to-date research conducted by credentialed and secular investigators."
In his second commentary posted this past Monday night, Fish went on to tackle readers' comments on his first column (of which there were many). Fish addressed the epistemological issue of which comes first: the data or the theory. Data without a theory has no sense to it. A theory without any supporting data is useless.
While not specifically referencing this coming Sunday's Gospel, Professor Fish indirectly adverts to it when he writes, "The slogan of what Carl Hempel called 'the narrow inductivist account of scientific inquiry' is 'seeing is believing'; first you look around and see what's there, then you formulate general propositions of theory or belief. The slogan that comes along with the account of inquiry [Princeton philosopher Thomas] Kelly rehearses (but does not endorse), an account that has been around at least since Hobbes, is 'believing is seeing.' The very act of looking around is always and already performed within a set of fully elaborate assumptions complete with categories, definitions and rules that tell you in advance what kinds of things might be 'discovered' and what relationships of cause and effect, contiguity, sameness and difference, etc., might obtain between them."
Thomas (the apostle, that is, not the Princeton philosopher) wanted to "see" the risen Lord, because that would be proof for him. Thomas' theory that the risen Lord had to have a physical body needed to be supported by data that conformed to the theory. A week after his first appearance to the disciples, Jesus gave Thomas that "proof."
But the greater assumption (theory, if you will) by believers is that we don't need a body to prove that Christ is risen from the tomb. If that were the case, our churches would only have been filled on Easter to the extent that each one would have contained the physical body of the risen Lord. But he wasn't there in that way. Much like scientists, we have developed our theory—"Christ is risen, Alleluia! He is truly risen, Alleluia!"—and our seeing (our collection of data) conforms to that theory (belief). The risen Christ is present precisely because we don't see a physical body. He lives in a completely new and different way.
We don't need the body of Jesus to show us that he is risen. We believe it.
Our chapters and verses will not convince atheists like Richard Dawkins, but they are the chapters and verses we recite to confirm our faith. We are blessed, even though we do not see. And we believe!
Loving Father of all,
your Son showed himself to his disciples
and through his resurrection brings joy to all believers.
May our lives be filled with his presence
as we confess that he lives among us even now.
May we share the fullness of Easter joy
with all our brothers and sisters.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
2012 RCIA INSTITUTES
New events continue to be added to the calendar for RCIA Institutes sponsored by the North American Forum on the Catechumenate. As the work of your parish RCIA reaches fruition with the Easter sacraments, invite the team members to consider participating in a summer event to deepen their understanding of the good work they do. A listing can be found at: www.naforum.org/wordpress/events/.
CATHOLIC HOME MISSIONS APPEAL—April 28–29
Many dioceses will take up the annual collection for the Catholic Home Missions the weekend of April 28–29. Resources are available from the USCCB on their website at http://usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/catholic-home-missions-appeal/collection/index.cfm. Parishes that use the publishing services of Liturgical Publications Inc can find these resources on the LPi Art & Media Portal with the key word "Catholic Home Missions Appeal."
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