Doubting Thomas and Believing Without Seeing

  Image source

The Gospel Reading this Second Sunday of Easter is the one where the risen Jesus appears to the disciples and then again to Thomas as he had missed out the first time. 

Thomas had disbelieved the others account of the risen Jesus  and dared to voice his doubts until he had seen Jesus and put his fingers in the wounds of his side and where the nails had pierced his hands and feet.

Different perspectives on this follow : 

It is only in John’s Gospel that Thomas appears and John recognises that honest doubt may be a very necessary prelude to faith. 

As Tennyson said: “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” Thomas is the one who stands for the virtue of honesty in our faith –

Thomas was a ‘pragmatic concrete thinker.’ He refused to say he understood what he did not understand. He refused to say he believed what he did not believe. Maybe he was a natural pessimist, a half empty glass rather than a half full glass type of person.

What made him tick? How come he wasn’t there the first  time Jesus appeared to the disciples? 

Perhaps he was so depressed over the death of Jesus that he wanted to get away, to be alone, to give himself time to think and decide what to do next. 

Perhaps he was in retreat, backing off, bemused at the stories the women had told them of seeing Jesus after his death. Perhaps he was the only one brave enough to venture out to get some food while the others cowered indoors.

When he eventually met up with the disciples and listened to their excited testimony why didn't he believe them? 

Perhaps he had had too many disappointments in his life. Perhaps he was just one of those people who was cautious and guarded and didn’t want to risk being taken for a ride.

It’s said the resurrection did not result in a committee with a chairman, but in a fellowship with an experience. Thomas found faith in the fellowship of a community and in the presence of the Risen Lord yet it was also an intensely personal experience.

A new understanding of faith had to be born in the disciples hearts . It’s not about “seeing and believing.” Jesus tells them.

And then Jesus affirms the faith of generations to come. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Karl Rahner said somewhere that when you come to the void there is no proof either way. There can be no certainty as to whether the void is absolute emptiness or whether it is the sheer openness of love. You have to make a choice.

More Reflections

Why and how do I embrace uncertainty and doubt  ? 

Painting below by John Granville Gregory Still Doubting .

Gregory emulates the style of Caravaggio below  using contemporary and realistic figures to show the story of Thomas encountering the Risen Christ.From Fr. James B. Simpson and George H. Eatman's A Treasury of Anglican Art (New York: Rizzoli, 2002).  Courtesy of Mr. Eatman.

To trust
that the Eternal has substance
and that Goodness fills this world with creation
despite the evil
that seems so more prevalent
It is a task
I cannot complete until I sit still
and open
my heart
asking, in whatever way I am able
Take me in Jesus.

Poem by Angela York Crane from Best and Worst Blog.


Fran said...

This is one of my favorite Gospel stories... and I love your post!

Philomena Ewing said...

Hi Fran,
Thanks for visiting. I am delighted you came by !! Likewise, this is one of my favorites too. I spent ages reading various online commentaries and also my own books and then reflecting on it. I could write loads on this and there is so much to say but in the end I decided it would be better to use more links to various commentaries as I was enjoying the sunshine too much to stay indoors. I seem to have lost momentum this week in all sorts of ways.

claire said...

Glad you're enjoying the sunshine, Phil.
This is a great post you wrote here on Thomas. You obviously have spent a lot of time with him.
I have always loved Thomas but obviously need to spend more time with him.
You're quite an inspiration!
Thanks, claire