2ND EASTER 2013 C
On this Second Sunday of Easter, we always hear the Gospel of Doubting Thomas proclaimed. It sounds natural to us for Thomas to want to have his doubts answered with real proof.
“Why do we have doubts?” and, “Why do we have faith?”
I know that doubting is part of being a human being. The disciples even doubted Him after the Resurrection. And it wasn’t just Thomas. As the disciples gathered on the Mount of the Ascension, Jesus appeared again to them, but, the scripture says, “some still doubted.” Why did they doubt? Here they had the Resurrected Lord right in front of them. It still demanded faith. In every account of the appearances of Christ, they did not recognize him at first. “They did not dare to ask him who he was for they knew he was the Lord” That says it about the best. They know but still would like confirmation. Often the disciples wondered if this really was a ghost, a strange phenomenon, or their minds playing tricks.
If you ever are in a “Thomas state of mind”—doubting your faith, doubting God’s love, doubting our hope for redemption—consider all the great Christians who have gone before you who have experienced similar doubts: Mother Teresa, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Thomas Aquinas. In fact all saints doubted if we knew their true story. Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. Doubt is a recurring stage of faith.
I know that when we start growing intellectually, when our minds become capable of handling abstract concepts, we tend to question that which was presented to us the only way we could understand it as a child, in concrete concepts. We must learn to read the bible anew or we doubt our faith as it comes in conflict with reason. We might take literally many images and parables of scripture but later we come to understand in study that the scripture is not a science book.
A far more troublesome source of doubts occurs when we enter into periods of crisis: Where was God when a child, or young friend you knew and loved died? Certainly Thomas experienced this at the death of Christ. Or, where was God when you prayed for your Mom and Dad to stay together, and they still broke up? We ask for help and God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers.
A serious cause of doubts in our faith can result from living a habitually immoral life. We might find ourselves saying one thing in Church and doing something all together opposite outside of the Church. Perhaps infidelity in my marriage or in my commitment as a religious priest, brother or sister; perhaps a deceitful pattern of embezzling money from the employer. Eventually, the hypocrisy catches up with us, and we have to make a choice between living a lie or rejecting our faith community and even perhaps our faith. The choice will be to either change your life or reject at least the Church if not ones faith.
Doubt sets in and forces us to review, update, and strengthen our core beliefs. As we grow, change, and experience setbacks, our certainty may be shaken.
We are always going to have doubts until we become like God and we see God face to face. Our doubts encompass not just our lack of faith in God but ourselves as well.
The period between Easter and Pentecost was very strange for Christ’s disciples. They were afraid and confused. The one on whom they had placed all their hope and trust had just been executed. He had foreseen his death and even spoken about rising from the dead but they hadn’t understood and they certainly weren’t prepared for the terrible events of Good Friday. And now there was the disturbing news about the empty tomb.
Peter and John seemed to believe that something extraordinary had happened, but the possibility of Christ rising from the dead was just too good to be true. We have the story of Thomas to back up this assertion. They are behind locked doors huddled in fear, and the risen Christ enters with words of peace. This is such a hopeful passage for all who are incapable of leaving their place a fear; incapable or embracing a new hope.
Suicidal depression, a wound so deep it can never heal, helplessness inside of a life-destroying addiction, a beaten and crushed spirit, an alienation from family too deep and long-standing to be overcome, incurable bitterness, any of these can leave us huddled in a locked room. We have become too weak to open the doors that lead to love and life. These are spiritual infirmities that beset us.
Today is “Divine Mercy Sunday”. We know the corporal works of mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, and bury the dead. But today the healing that the resurrected Christ brings is among the spiritual works of mercy: admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries, and pray for the living and the dead. Thomas doubted, but, soon enough, he himself experiences something just as wonderful which prompts him to proclaim, ‘My Lord and my God.’ These are the spiritual obligations we owe each other.
The Risen Christ breaks into our prison in the locked upper room and suddenly appears. And he does something even more unexpected. He breathes on us! This scene reminds us of the primordial breath of God Adam inhaled, which transformed simple clay into a vital human being. Ezekiel prophesized that dry bones might live again with the breath of God. When it’s God’s life in the breath, it’s good to take it in. When the disciples do so, they quickly become apostles and missionaries in one deep breath.
He breathes on us and says those unforgettable words about receiving the Holy Spirit and bestowing on us the power of forgiveness. He calls us to life and by the breath of our words of encouragement, by our instruction, by our counsel, by our words of comfort, by our forgiveness, by our prayer, to breathe life into others by our spiritual works of mercy.
God, through us you use all things to heal and bring people home.
Please do use our hands, feet, our love, words, breath,
to help you fill the world with your grace.