8th APRIL, 2018.
We tend to think that believing was easier for those who saw Jesus than it is for us. This is a mistake. The Gospels show there are many people who saw Jesus and yet didn’t believe in him. Seeing is not necessarily believing. The act of faith involves a decision to believe.
In fact, the Gospels show that even the apostles had problems believing. Thomas wasn’t the only apostle to doubt the resurrection. All of them did. St Mark tells us that when Jesus appeared on Easter evening, ‘he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.'(16:14).
We tend to feel guilty about having doubts. Doubt is often looked on as a sign of weakness. But doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. The poet Tennyson, says: The person of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a person of faith.’
The example of Thomas is both enlightening and encouraging for us. Thomas showed a refreshing honesty. He made no attempt to hide his doubts. He was not with the other apostles the first time Jesus appeared to them. When they said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he said, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my fingers into those holes, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’
What was it that reawakened the faith of the apostles and of Thomas in particular? It was the appearance of the risen Lord. And having reawakened their faith. Jesus gave them a mission – to continue the work of salvation through forgiveness of sins. And paradoxically, from the lips of this ‘doubting Thomas’ came the highest profession of faith in all of the Gospels: ‘My Lord and my God.’
Thomas must not be defined by that period of doubt. That was only one moment in his life. Having come through his crisis of faith, he went on to become one of the greatest missionaries of the early Church. According to tradition, he brought the Gospels to Persia, Syria and India, where he was martyred. Thomas was the first of the Apostles to die for the faith.
The story of Thomas shows that doubt can be a growing point, a stepping stone to a deeper understanding. Here on earth, there is no such thing as absolute certainty. Here on earth, there is no such thing as absolute certainty about spiritual things. If there were, faith would not be necessary.
Jesus invites us to draw close to him in faith and to look at his wounds. Even though we cannot touch them physically, we can draw close to him spiritually. And we too are called to bear witness to others. Our task is to make Christ ‘visible’ in the world. The world today is full of doubters and unbelievers. The only way they will be converted to belief is if they can ‘see’ Jesus and ‘touch’ him in his followers.
To be a believer in today’s world can be a very lonely business. This is where the community comes in. From earliest times, Christians came together in community, to witness to Jesus’ resurrection, and to live by his teachings. They supported one another by praying and worshipping together, and by a loving service to one another.
Our personal prayer may well be – Lord I Believe – Help my unbelief
Peace Joy in the Risen Lord to one and all