10 April 2010

Doubting Thomas

Acts 5:12-16. Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24. Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19. Jn 20:19-31

Thomas, Thomas, Thomas! Whatever are we to do with you? What will become of you? You can imagine the scene. It’s very late in the day, the first Easter Sunday. Perhaps it’s even Easter Monday, and the disciples tell Thomas that he’s missed the Lord. “We have seen the Lord!” Yeah, right. And I’m the Queen of Sheba! When He comes and shows me the wounds, then I’ll believe.

This lovely story comes right at the beginning of the early Church. An early Church which is soon growing at an exponential rate. In the Acts of the Apostles we hear of the fervent outpouring of praise and worship at the Portico of Solomon, and those who came to believe in the Lord increased steadily. In future weeks we will hear how entire towns came to hear the Word preached, not least once we bring in St Paul. Even now, people are bringing the sick to lie merely in the shadow of St Peter as he passes by. All of them were cured.

Indeed, this is an exciting time for the Church. Yet we know also that there was great scepticism in first century Palestine. There was real threat to life and to limb for those brave souls who followed not the way of the world but rather the way of Jesus Christ. People talked, in those early days, of following The Way. It was both a seemingly secretive sect of those who gathered in one another’s houses to celebrate a clandestine Mass, and at the same time the disciples spoke out loud and proud, proclaiming He is Risen, Alleluia, alleluia.

Today, also, we are both a Church in secret, a Church facing persecution, a Church shamed by the sins of her priests. Yet we have in our midst those who call out the name of Jesus, those who offer to us a powerful and significant witness to the Lord, those who inspire us to keep true to who we are. In an excellent article in this week’s Tablet, the Dominican, Timothy Radcliffe says “Why stay? I must lay my cards on the table; even if the Church were obviously worse than other Churches, I still would not go. I am not a Catholic because our Church is the best, or even because I like Catholicism. I do love much about my Church but there are aspects of it which I dislike. I am not a Catholic because of a consumer option for an ecclesiastical Waitrose rather than Tesco, but because I believe that it embodies something which is essential to the Christian witness to the Resurrection, visible unity.” He concludes: “We may be embarrassed to admit that we are Catholics, but Jesus kept shameful company from the beginning.”

But what of those who were the shameful company from the beginning, those Apostles and particularly Thomas. He got his wish eight days later that is today. On the 2nd Sunday of Easter our Lord appeared again, showing his new found aptitude for resisting closed doors, and said ‘Peace be with you’ and to Thomas, “put your finger here”; “give me your hand”; “doubt no longer but believe.” Caravaggio takes this image further in his raw and real masterpiece, Doubting Thomas, with the Apostle’s finger lost in the side of Christ. Interestingly it is Jesus’ hand which guides the hand of the suspicious one, as though it was necessary not only for Thomas to trust in Jesus, but also to be guided by him.

Through Thomas’s Trust in Jesus in he is able to finally declare “My Lord and my God”, the strongest possible indication that Christ is indeed the Son of God. The man who walked amongst us is nothing less than God himself. Oh where would we be Thomas without your faith?

St Faustina, the Polish nun to whom Christ also appeared in 1931, introduced to the world the devotion of the Divine Mercy. With her we can confidently say “Jesus I trust in you”. And on this Divine Mercy Sunday, we can join with Thomas, on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament and say “My Lord and my God!” because ‘happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

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