Saturday, April 11, 2015
I would like to reflect and anticipate tomorrow's Gospel passage on Thomas in the Gospel of St. John chapter 20:24-29. There are many great things on which to reflect; I will choose two thoughts for you to ponder. If you are Catholic, you may want to go find your Bible and shake the dust off of it. If you are a Protestant, reach over and grab your well worn Bible.
Point number one: "Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came." This is the opening passage of the story of what is typically called the "Doubting Thomas" story. His doubt, I believe, started when he know that Jesus was being crucified. He was not there, as the sheep were scattered. He might have been "scattered" further perhaps than some of the other Apostles. He was not with the rest when, on Easter Sunday, Jesus came and stood in their midst. This may naturally beg the question: where was Thomas? It would seem that perhaps he was "getting on with his life" as before he met Jesus and was asked to walk with him. Did Thomas start to doubt Christ even on Good Friday, and then when at least the rest of them (sans Judas Iscariot) met in Jerusalem the day after Sabbath?
If Thomas was not with the others the day Christ appeared to them, you could infer that he was returning to his former life, or at least what could resemble his former life (after one has an authentic encounter with Christ one can never really return to his former life, so long as there is authentic change). This often happens with the Christian today; in fact, the story of Thomas ought to resonate with each of us to a greater or lesser degree. Many times in our lives, Easter Sunday represents that day when we recognize that not only are we loved by God, but that He loves us to the point of death on a cross, a humiliating way to die, and that he rose from the dead for me. However, perhaps Thomas Sunday represents that after our conversion, sometimes we start to doubt. It is appropriate then that we read this Gospel some time after the Resurrection account on Easter Sunday, since it usually takes time for the doubt to creep in.
Suppose we have had a profound conversion and we personally encountered Christ. There will come a time of doubt and discouragement, when we are further from Christ than Christ would like. In this case, Thomas was sort of falling away from the Church, which at that time consisted really of the Apostles (the Church was born from the side of Christ on the Cross). He needed to be brought back to the Church through Christ, who reconciled him to the Church and allows Thomas to make the bold profession of Faith: "My Lord and My God." This profound encounter with the Lord happens every day in the sacraments of Christ, whereby we can have authentic and literal encounters with Christ. We are invited to, on a daily basis, to make an assertion of Faith about Christ crucified and raised for us. Do we take that invitation?
We can experience the risen Christ, and physically experience the pierced side of Christ at Mass. Here in this pierced side of Christ the life saving and redemptive flow of blood washes over the Earth, and it is the same blood of Christ we experience in the Holy Mass, every day should we want. While Thomas is invited to put his finger in Christ's wound, we are invited to reside in the wound and experience the washing away of our sins and the act of redemption in a real way: by the blood Christ shed for us. This is the expression of Faith Thomas needed after not being with the Church when Jesus first appeared to the Church. He needed that expression of Faith, more than Christ needed it. With the Church being born from the side of Christ, it is appropriate for Thomas to put his finger in the literal side of Christ in order to be washed in His blood and be reconciled to the very young Church.
The second point I would like to make is regarding Evangelization and our best efforts to Evangelize. Does it often seem as though we fail to make progress with someone we are trying to lead to truth? I experience this on an almost daily basis as a religion teacher. I must take heart that I am probably making a difference in their lives even if they are just staying at me as though I had just stuffed a crow in my mouth. Here, in this passage, we have the Apostle's efforts at Evangelization, and it falls flat. Thomas was obstinate, and unbelieving. But Jesus was able to convince him otherwise. We go back to the words of John the Baptist: He must increase, I must decrease.
The more people see Christ when they see us or when they read us on the internet, the more authentic conversion is possible. It is not the Gospel of Bobby Murphy, but it is rather the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we present Christ to others in a real way that is not our own spin on the Gospel for an ulterior motive, it is here that Christ shines more brightly in the presence of others. The Apostles were not able to move Thomas. In order for reversion to Christ, it needed to be Christ reaching out to Thomas. In every moment of Evangelization, it needs to be Christ and not us. We need to remember that we are instruments of Christ. If we try to go it alone, we will fall flat rather quickly.
May I present two goals to make Christ the main part of Evangelization: 1. Pray yourself to Christ, in Eucharistic Adoration and the Holy Mass as often as possible for the humility to let Christ take over every moment of Evangelization, using us as instruments as He sees fit. 2. Invite others to pray and allow them to have an encounter with the Lord, so they can soon proclaim as St. Thomas: "My Lord and My God." If we allow an authentic encounter to take place, then we are decreasing, and Christ is increasing in the world.
May you remain close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
St. Thomas the Apostle, pray for us.