Second Sunday of Easter 2013 Doubting Thomas

Scripture readings for Sunday Mass are here

The author of this comic strip above at the site Agnus Day here, says "I kept thinking about the best way to reference the “Groundhog Day” aspect of the recurring Thomas story and finally decided that the best way was to imitate the film and repeat the first frame."

Poor Thomas !! This one below suggests his frustration with the reputation that most often goes with his name.

Both cartoons have some truth in them and they lay bare some of the struggles we have at the heart of tensions inherent in human nature, and our edginess and frustrations at being stereotyped and judged.

 When Thomas and Christ eventually meet up, I see them both in a vulnerable stance of a deep heart and soul - opening to each other.

Here is Frederick Buechner's down to earth reflection on Thomas, and this is the final paragraph:

"Even though he said the greater blessing is for those who can believe without seeing, it's hard to imagine that there's a believer anywhere who wouldn't have traded places with Thomas, given the chance, and seen that face and heard that voice and touched those ruined hands." (John 14:1-7,20:19-29)

  • This is a fine reflection on why the bad rap Thomas gets is in fact an eloquent way of teaching us to look at our own faith more honestly. 

  • My Sunday reflection from 2012 which has intra links to reflections from 2011, and 2010  on " Doubting Thomas" is here.
Click here for more reflections on the Scripture Readings From St Louis Centre for Liturgy and I especially like this one from Fr. Ron Rolheiser entitled " Living Beyond Doubt."

Here's Thomas Merton's take on this Sunday's Gospel from John :

"We too often forget that Christian faith is a principle of questioning and struggle before it becomes a principle of certitude and peace. 

One has to doubt and reject everything else in order to believe firmly in Christ, and after one has begun to believe, one's faith itself must be tested and purified. 
Christianity is not merely a set of foregone conclusions." 

~ Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 1966

Fr. Richard Rohr says, “The place of the wound is the place of the healing. The place of the break is the place of the greatest strength. That is why Jesus himself, even in his resurrected body, reappears with the wounds still in his hands, in his side, in his feet. They do not disappear as you might expect.”

Many times in our lives we shy away from our wounds, as if they embarrass us. We want to hide them, cover them up, pretend they are not there and avoid any discussion associated with our wounds. Yet, the wounds of our lives are our places of strength. The wounds of our lives are the doorways to God."

I especially like the cartoon above because sometimes we use the term Doubting Thomas to describe people who are energy vampires. If I'm honest, the church conversations that are the hardest to have are with people who suck the energy out of me just like a succubus. I go through phases when I am one too. It's at those times I usually withdraw, but then I think of that upper room where for 50 days the disciples had to suffer with each other and try to work it all out. I would love to know more about those conversations !!

In the time after the resurrection, it's obvious that it wasn't just Thomas who was being negative. Despite several appearances of Jesus and being told pretty amazing positive messages of Christ's resurrection, they remained shuttered in. There were odd forays outside - we are told Peter returns to fishing at some point.

I try to imagine how it must feel being locked up with people who don't believe each others version of the truth and who find angry doubt insufferable and there is no way to get away !!

Pope Francis in his homily over Easter urged us to get down and dirty with the smelly sheep. I imagine that enclosed locked upper room was a decidedly smelly and stressful place to be !!  

Click here too for Pope Francis speaking to us and warning us of how easy it is to get trapped into that cycle of despair.
But that's life isn't it ? Whether it's discipleship, life, church, family, if we have the expectation that conflicts can only be dealt with by bunkering down under our own collective cliques of affirmation and shelter, then ultimately there is not much hope for much needed healing and change.

It seems to me that there are different types of doubt . The first is an aggrandising doubt that nearly always operates from a place of ego. Underneath it, if we are lucky, and patient (!), we can see that this angry position comes from deeper places of unacknowledged fears or anxiety. 

What Jesus shows us in this parable is that there is nothing to fear from if we have honest doubt that comes from a place of integrity.

What is also apparent to me is that it is precisely in those locked up places of alienation and isolation where Jesus enters

This is the focal point for the penetrative but gentle power of His presence. It was always that way, even when He was alive. He does not reprimand or show anger, unless he senses the stance of arrogance or hypocrisy.  

But when in honest need as here, He invites us to gather around the His own wounds and delve into the deep places of the scars where healing takes place.

Jesus can always read us like an open book- significantly His wounds are still open even though He is resurrected, and He asks Thomas to put his hands inside them.

In experiencing the compassion of Christ, whose own deep open wounds swallow up and the deep chasms of Thomas' doubt in love, Thomas acknowledges the presence of Christ.

So what can I learn from this parable this year ?  The challenge is there for me. How can I make things different, without totally avoiding those messy encounters with people in my church on issues I strongly disagree with

How can the open wounds of so many people's pain and suffering be made places for an encounter of healing service rather than an opportunity to just grind people down again in the usual groundhog cycle we seem perpetually locked into ?

I came across this post as I was coming to the end of this post and found it echoes what I have been struggling to say. - I wish I had discovered it before I started posting because it says it so much better !

Finally I like this poem by Kathleen McCoy from this site : Poetry for Peace and Justice. I wish I could write one like this too !! Although the title says Prayer in Dark September, it seems a good one for any time of year and also for this coming Sunday's Gospel on Doubting Thomas and for all of us at some time.

for the little ones with furrowed brows

for those slowed by stiffness and disbelief

for those who ran out of time or just in time

for those ground down to powder

for those whose feet have gone groundless

for those who loathe all who are unlike themselves

for those whose losses howl in the heart

for those who time how long it takes to heal

for those who time the kill

for those who want revenge on strangers

for those who charge into flames for strangers

for those who’ve scraped the dark’s knife-edge

for those who lead and light the way

for those who pray in black and white

for those whose prayer is dim or blocked

let the muscles of their brows unknit

let disbelief be illumined by possibility

let the ashes mix with water

let them cleanse the crying ground

let groundlessness become a memory

let loathing’s crouching corners fill with light

let the jagged wounds of loss be healed

let flames of hatred sputter and utterly die

let love quench the endless thirst for blood

that the terrible rendings may cease

that no one ever again would be to us a stranger

that our voices would swell to gorgeous song

that our bodies would fill with light

that our lives might be a prayer

Kathleen McCoy

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