21 April 2010

Easter 2 C - The Faith of Thomas

Easter 2 C – The Faith of Thomas

Sunday 11 April 2010

John 20: 19-31

By Stuart Pike

Today's world tries to preach to us about confidence and self‑assurance. It's in the media ‑ it's in T.V. commercials. There's always the self‑assured man or woman on T.V trying to sell us something. Our politicians want us always to remain assured about the political well‑being of our country, of our Province and of our Community. Don't worry, be happy is a social institution these days. Be cool ‑ calm ‑ collected. Anything less than confidence and such collectedness is considered to be a weakness.

But, you know, these days there are also a lot of people who do not feel this way about their lives ‑ or about their political future, or even about their faith. It is hard for people to have faith in the doings of Human beings these days, and for many, it is even harder to have faith in God. And because everywhere we're being preached at by our society, by our psychologists, and even by our religion that it is weak to have doubts, there are lots of people who walk around with guilty feelings. They doubt their future, or they doubt themselves, or they doubt their faith.

Today's Gospel lesson tells us the familiar story of Thomas, who has come to be known by many as doubting Thomas, because of his refusal to believe that Jesus had appeared to the other disciples. He said that unless he saw the print of the nails in his hands, and could actually touch them, and the wound in his side, he would not believe. Thomas wanted visible and touchable proof.

So, down in history, Thomas is called doubting Thomas. It's a shame in a way because the other disciples were shown Jesus' hands and feet when Jesus appeared to them. We don't know how many of them would have believed without seeing. I guess I have a kind of sympathy with Thomas, because he was called the Twin, and, of course I am a twin, and I don't like to see a fellow twin being hard done by. They did not prove that they had any more faith than Thomas did. They had the proof as well, and that is only what Thomas wanted.

None of the Disciples had really shown that they had the kind of faith that Jesus asked of them. They were only together it appears because they were hiding, because they feared being persecuted. After their leader had been taken and crucified, they felt that they might be next. It wasn't until after Jesus breathed on them, giving them the Holy Spirit that the Disciples seemed to take great courage and risk to spread the message of the Gospel. It was the Holy Spirit that really made the difference in the lives of these first Christians.

I think there are at least two important things that we can learn from this reading, then. First of all is the reaction of Jesus to Thomas the Twin. This was the same Thomas that stood by Jesus when he wanted to return to Jerusalem, for what would turn out to be the last time. The Disciples, then, knew the risk and they were mumbling about how dangerous it would be for them all if they returned to Jerusalem. It was Thomas the Twin who spoke up and said, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." I think it would be better to remember him as Courageous Thomas, than doubting Thomas. But, you know, even when Thomas did doubt the witness of the other Disciples, Jesus didn't punish him, or embarrass him. He simply showed Thomas his hands and his side and told him not to be faithless, but believing.

So many people these days think that if you ever have any periods of doubt mixed in with your faith, then you must be a sinner, or else you must never admit your doubt, even to yourself, or people think that you will take the express elevator straight down. This is not the way that Jesus deals with people who doubt. Jesus deals with all people with compassion and understanding. It is o.k. for you to have times when you doubt. In fact, I think that it is natural. It is only by admitting to ourselves that we have doubts, and by facing them squarely, that we can grow further to greater faith. Our journey in faith includes times when we have doubts and fears, and then times when we have faith that is stronger than factual knowledge. The important thing is to take our doubts in prayer to God, rather than trying to hide them from God.

The next thing that it is important to see is that the Holy Spirit being given seems to be related to faith. It was only after Jesus breathed on them that they had the great faith.

Well, Jesus says to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." This includes all of us, if we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord. How encouraging this is for us who don't have the advantage that the Disciples had. Jesus understands how hard it must be to hold on to such faith.

But at the same time, Jesus makes it easier for us by giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we can have this great faith. We have the advantage that the Disciples didn't have right then, until he breathed on them, and gave them the Holy Spirit. We have the ability to be even more blessed in this way, than the Disciples were, by being able to believe without having seen with our eyes.

That is what baptism is all about. Because we believe that the most important thing that happens at baptism is that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to the one being baptized. This is a gift that will live inside of us forever, and will show itself at key points in their lives, at the moments of great faith, at the deepest times of our lives. At the happiest of times, and during the darkest times, everyone who is baptized can hang on to this, or turn to it. All we have to do is search for it in ourselves. This is something that is too deep for us to understand, but which can be known and felt, even though there might be times of doubt. This is something which cannot be denied the person who is baptized.

It is the realization of our baptism which gives us the faith we need without having the proof of the marks of nail and spear. When we realize that our baptism changes us into a new creation, we can understand how we can believe without seeing physical proof. That's what faith is, you know ‑ it is believing without proof. For if you have proof of a thing ‑ you don't need faith, and you don't have faith. We live by faith ‑ the faith given to us by baptism.

It is better than proof ‑ for it is a miracle in itself, and by this faith miracles can happen. And the assurance of God to the person of faith is more unshakable to that person than proof. I know, for by my own experience of God in my life, in the ways that God has touched me, I'd prefer to have faith than proof.

But always remember that our journey of faith is a journey ‑ it is full of ups and downs as we travel the long path of faith in our lives. There will be times when our faith is stronger, and there will be times when our faith is weaker. There are always the times of doubt that come to us. But these times are not times to hide from God, or from ourselves. These times are times to turn to God in honesty, that our faith might be revived. God will not let us down when we doubt.

Faith is knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof. Gibran.

No comments:

Post a Comment