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"Doubting" Thomas - We Can Identify
See and Believe!
I Have Met Thomas and I Am Him!
Entering this Lent, I decided to undertake the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, self-directed, for the third time. I did so this year because I was feeling empty, distant from God. It had been a tough 2012, filled with challenges but also blessings. I was feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. Spiritually, I was dry, parched. God seemed a distant abstraction rather than a personal friend.
Three years ago in January, I had major surgery. I had reached to point of total surrender, entrusting myself, my future, and my family totally to God. I experienced the greatest peace I had ever known! I truly had come to the point where I had every confidence that I would be cured by the surgery, or able to persevere if I was not cured, or emerge from the surgery in Heaven.
The surgery was successful and my health improved. But as I returned to my work and my family responsibilities, I began to slowly take back all the things that I had given over to God in my surrender. Of course, as I did, I experienced highs and lows and suffered the consequences of my humanity.
I continued to pray, probably even more than before the surgery, but I found few answers. Whenever the circumstances of my life or the events in the world made no sense, I just dropped back to the words from Isaiah “my ways are not your ways.” Faith but without substance.
So in an effort to trust, to surrender, to find peace in acceptance of the unknown and unknowable, I took up again the Spiritual Exercises. The exercise for Holy Saturday called for meditation on what one of the people close to Jesus would have experienced on that day, that time between the coming of the darkness and the dawning of the light. For reasons I can’t explain, other than the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I selected Thomas the Apostle, “Doubting Thomas.”
Jesus’s crucifixion and death must have struck Thomas to the core. Reflecting back from the story in John’s Gospel, Thomas must have felt confused and deeply disturbed. He had seen the miracles and heard the preaching. He thought he had it all figured out. How could this happen? He surely doubted that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah. He may have despaired. The recent History Channel presentation of “The Bible” contains an excellent portrayal of Thomas as a “what if” skeptic.
Which brings us to the scene of the Gospel for the First Sunday in Easter. His fellow apostles tell him that they have seen Jesus, that he has risen. Thomas demands evidence, proof. Not just eyewitness testimony, but physical evidence of the highest order. Physical evidence that he himself sees and touches. Of course, Jesus provides it. Thomas goes on to evangelize and to suffer a martyr’s death. In an ironic twist, according to apocryphal accounts, Thomas was the only one to witness the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was at first derided and dismissed until he presented Mary’s belt, which she entrusted to him as she was assumed.
Thomas’s problem on Holy Saturday was mine. He thought too small. He failed to see that as useful as human reason and logic may be to guide us through the affairs of this world, they are totally inadequate to grasp the mystery of God and his ways. As Paul observed, to the believer all that is worldly wise is foolish, and to the worldly the believer seems as the fool.
Jesus rocked Thomas out of his worldly frame of reference by rising from the dead and appearing to him and the other apostles in his risen state. As he did when he took human form, he came into the realm of worldly wisdom when he gave Thomas the physical evidence that he had demanded. But for me his words to Thomas must now be my touchstone – blessed is he who does not see but believes.