Thursday November 14, 2019
8:12 pm

From doubt comes greater understanding and the gift of faith

      This week’s Gospel (Jn 20:19-31) picks up where we left off last week at the resurrection Here we enter into the story of Thomas, the doubting apostle. We’ve watched as Jesus lived; Jesus died. Jesus, as promised, rose from the dead.

      The story now continues with the Lord’s disciples confused, scared and trying to deal with the aftermath. They huddled, locked in a room out of their continued fear of the Jews and Romans.

      Now what?

      For whatever reason, Thomas is not among them when Jesus first appeared in their midst. From the wounds visible in his hands and side, the disciples knew it was Jesus and joyously believe.

      Upon Thomas’ return, the others crowd around him, eager to tell him they saw Jesus. He is, indeed, risen! Whoa, says Thomas, “Unless I see the mark of nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

      If we were honest with ourselves, had we not been there initially to see the Lord, we, too, probably would have had our doubts. The man died, crucified on a cross and was put in his tomb. That seemed rather definitive.

      Of course we know how this story plays out. A week later, Jesus is back and invites Thomas to touch his wounds. Thomas’ response? “My Lord and my God!”

      From all that this Gospel calls us to reflect upon, this passage most often speaks to me of, not only doubt and faith, but also acceptance and community.

      I’ve often wondered why Thomas was not among the disciples on that day. Did he sneak out to buy some food? Were there family and friends he needed to check upon? Or, in the face of recent events, were his doubts about Jesus beginning to build. Perhaps he simply needed to get away from the clatter and din in that room, clear his head and be alone with his thoughts, his questions.

      Jesus undoubtedly knew Thomas would be missing the day he first appeared. He might have waited until all were present, but he didn’t. Nor did he seem angry at Thomas’ skepticism. Maybe this was the Lord’s way of saying it’s all right to doubt at times.

      Doubt is not necessarily a bad thing; I suspect, rather than being the opposite of faith, it is a human consequence of faith. By nature, we are doubters. Doubt, when allowed to follow its natural course, seeks greater understanding. For Catholics, doubt can be the catalyst that helps us to grow in our knowledge of the faith and, in turn, grow closer in our relationship with God.

      But read carefully, the Gospel also speaks to us of acceptance and community, with modern day lessons to be learned.

       When Thomas doubted, note there is no mention that the disciples scorn or ostracize him. While they might have experienced dissenting opinions on the matter, they continue to embrace Thomas as part of their community - one of their own.

      Dissenting sides…does that sound familiar, even within our own Catholic communities? Do we dismiss, exclude or shun those who do not believe as we might believe? Do we drive them away from our churches?

      Or, does the sense of Christian community, as in the days following Christ’s death and, with great hope, his resurrection, call us to embrace and hold on tight to those Thomas’ among us.

      Do we try to better understand those who are seekers…those who struggle to understand and accept that which comes from faith alone?

      Do we scorn and ignore or do we forgive, embrace and love the ones among us standing in the margins, struggling with doubt and belief?

      Where do we fall on the acceptance scale?

      It wasn’t just Thomas, although he was the one who voiced his concerns. The other disciples might very well have suffered from their own doubts. After all, it took an appearance from the Lord to ignite their joy and belief in the resurrection. In the end, they all came to recognize the “glue” that held them together did, indeed live, and took Jesus’ words to heart.

      “Peace be with you.”

    

      Debbie Bosak is the editor and general manager of Northwest Indiana Catholic Publications and a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Merrillville. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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