Monday, April 16, 2012

Can you blame Thomas?

Can you blame Thomas?  How could he accept what the apostles were telling him?  Some things, like a person rising from the dead, are just too incredible to believe.  No one expected Jesus to rise from the dead and there was no good reason to believe that he had.  So, when the other apostles exclaimed, “We have seen the Lord!” it was just too much for Thomas to believe.  Now, Thomas is asking for proof that Jesus rose from the dead.  He tells the other apostles that he won’t believe unless he sees the wounds of Jesus and puts his hand into his side.  What about us?  How much proof do we need?  Must we see Jesus face to face in order to believe? 

We can all relate to Thomas.  We have all met people who are on fire with the love of the Lord.  Sometimes the more they witness to us about his love, the more skeptical we become.  Many find it difficult to believe based upon another person’s faith.  And, if this person tells stories of incredible miracles, we may be even less likely to believe. 

In the eyes of the world, believing in the resurrection of Jesus is na├»ve, and maybe even silly.  Many are indifferent and lukewarm in their faith today.  They may or may not go to church on Sunday.  They are familiar with the story of the resurrection but haven’t quite bought into it.  Their faith often doesn’t have a significant impact on their day-to-day actions.  It isn’t that they don’t believe in God; it’s just that this belief isn’t strong enough to impact their behavior, especially when their faith is telling them one thing and the world just the opposite.  The current debate on contraception is a great example of this.  Our church tells us that it is immoral; our society tells us that it’s OK, and our government tells us that it is so important that it is a basic right.  Where do we find the truth?  How does our faith lead us to the truth in important matters such as this? 

A friend of mine commented to me that he thought it would have been easier to have faith in Jesus time than it is now.  He said that he believed his faith would have been stronger if he had walked with Jesus.  Common sense would seem to suggest that it would be easier to believe if we could have seen the risen Jesus and talked to his disciples.  But for us, believing is not a matter of physical observation but of realizing spiritual truth.  And, unlike the Apostles, we have the benefit of the New Testament, the Catechism, and two thousand years of Church teachings.  The apostles didn’t have any of this.  At times, they struggled with believing that Jesus is the Son of God.  They had a lot to learn about the risen Jesus and faced many heresies.  And yet, by faith, in spite of persistent doubts, they converted their followers to Christianity at an amazing rate.

Our faith is built upon the faith of the apostles.  It is built upon Thomas, the doubter, who comes face to face with Christ and makes his act of faith when he says:  “My Lord and my God!” It is dependent upon that faith being passed down by people of faith in communities just like ours.  Fortunately, our faith journey isn’t a solitary one.  We have the wisdom of many others to light our path. 

Last weekend, our faith was on display for all to see.   On Friday, many of us reverenced the cross in front of the altar.  I watched in awe as you came two by two to demonstrate your unity with the sufferings of Jesus.  You were young, barely able to walk, old, struggling to kneel down to kiss the cross, teenagers trying to look cool, and mothers and fathers carrying children.  At the Saturday vigil, the catechumens and their sponsors filled this area as they came into the church after months of preparation.  On Easter Sunday at the 11 o’clock mass, our congregation overflowed into the gathering area and even onto the sidewalk outside.  We can easily imagine Jesus smiling as he watched all of this.  In spite of doubts due to the persistent attacks of the evil one, the faith of our community continues to grow.

If we look for proof, we’ll never find it.  If we have faith, we have all the proof we need.  During the desert times when we’re struggling with our faith, we struggle to see God in anything.  But, on those occasions when our faith is strong, we see God even in the little things of our lives. 

We’ll never have all the proof we’d like to have.  And that’s OK.  That’s what faith is all about.  And we won’t see Jesus face to face until we are with him in the heavenly kingdom.  Like Thomas in the upper room, we have doubts.  St Paul told the Romans:  “The victory that conquers the world is our faith.  And the victor over the world is the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  Today, we give thanks for the patience and mercy of Jesus on this Divine Mercy Sunday.  And we give thanks for the faith of our community , for those who recently joined us at the Easter vigil, and for our shepherd leading us on this faith journey.  For, through the faith of others, we see a glimpse of the Risen Lord.  Thanks be to God.  His mercy endures forever.