Tag Archives: doubt

Give Thomas a break

Preparing to preach today, I was struck by how narrow our vision is when we consider “doubting Thomas.” I said in my homily that we are too hard on him.

He wasn’t in the Upper Room (with its locked doors for fear of the authorities) when Jesus appeared. The apostles there were startled and terrified (as Luke 24:37 puts it).

Jesus shows them his wounds and they are filled with joy, at least in John’s Gospel (20:21). In Luke they are incredulous for joy and amazed (24:41) or, as the NRSV puts it, “in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”

Eating with him, they seem to be convinced that it is really Jesus, risen, and not a phantasm.

When Thomas heard the news, I wondered if he thought the other apostles were suffering from an illusion, projecting their dreams to visualize a risen Jesus.

Perhaps Thomas was seeking a real encounter with Jesus and was suspicious of their stories. After all, these same disciples had been told of the risen Jesus by the women who had the courage to go to the tomb that Sunday morning. But they seem to have dismissed the women and doubted them. They were the doubting disciples – of course, the women had brought the message and, in a macho world, who listens to women?

But when Jesus comes to the disciples the next Sunday, he doesn’t chew him out. Rather, he invites Thomas to come and put his finger in the wounds. He invites intimate contact.

And how does Thomas respond? With one of the most profound affirmations of Jesus in the Gospels, “My Lord and my God.”

Thomas gets a bad rep – while the other disciples get excused for their doubts. But Thomas opened himself to intimacy, to touching the wounds of the Lord.

Do we long to touch the wounds of the Lord? Or do we want to keep Him at a distance?

The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_by_Caravaggio


Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da, 1573-1610. The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.[retrieved April 8, 2018] Original source: Wikipedia Commons.

 

 

Doubting Thomas and Thomas Merton

Today the Catholic Church and the Malabar Church of St. Thomas in India celebrate St. Thomas – the doubter. Sometimes, I think, Thomas is judged too harshly. After all, he is honest with the apostles and, when Jesus appears, he acknowledges Him as “My Lord and my God.”

But maybe doubt is not the opposite of faith, but, as Thomas Merton writes in New Seeds of Contemplation, faith and doubt both play their role in the spiritual life:

Let no one hope to find in contemplation an escape from conflict, from anguish  or from doubt. On the contrary, the deep, inexpressible certitude of the  contemplative experience awakens a tragic anguish and opens many questions in  the depths of the heart like wounds that cannot stop bleeding. For every gain in  deep certitude there is a corresponding growth of superficial “doubt.” This doubt is  by no means opposed to genuine faith, but it mercilessly examines and  questions the spurious ‘faith’ of everyday life, the human faith which is nothing but  the passive acceptance of conventional opinion.