Saturday, April 11, 2015
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the Apostle Thomas. My middle son, Jonah, took the name Thomas as his Confirmation name when he was Confirmed last month by Bishop Campbell – the Apostle is the patron saint of architect’s, which he hopes to become someday. The Apostle Thomas was prominent in the Sunday Gospel reading just before Palm Sunday, in which he boldly challenged his fellow Apostles to go with Jesus to Judea, so that they may die with him. We had two of our adults who were Confirmed at the Easter Vigil take the name Thomas – one for the Apostle, and one for Thomas Aquinas. And, with a three year old son at home, Thomas the Tank Engine, which by the way is no relation to Thomas the Apostle, has become an unhealthy obsession, which keeps the name Thomas ever-present! And then finally, as we read in today’s Gospel, the Apostle Thomas again takes another prominent role. As accurate as the title Doubting Thomas may be, based on what we just read, I find myself wanting to defend Thomas from this disparaging title. So I was encouraged when I read the great Bible scholar William Barclay’s description of Thomas: that Thomas never lacked courage, although he was arguably a pessimist; and more important, that Thomas loved Jesus – without any question, hesitation, fear or doubt – and loved Jesus even to the point of being willing to die with him. William Barclay goes on to point out that Thomas has two great virtues – really two virtues that each of us should desire to also possess. First, Thomas absolutely refused to say that he understood what he did not understand, or that he believed what he did not believe. There was an uncompromising integrity and honesty about him. In our own lives we know how our own doubts and insecurities make it easy to act like we know or agree when we don’t (or vice versa) in order to fit in and avoid standing out. Second, Thomas’ other great virtue was that when he was sure, he WAS sure. There was no second-guessing or buyer’s remorse with Thomas. When he was sure, his surrender to certainty was complete. Upon encountering the risen Lord, he surrendered his uncertainty completely and proclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” It is these same virtues in our five adults who joined the Church last Saturday evening that are so inspiring to me – their profession of faith was certain, sincere and confident. We get the same sense from the author of today’s second Reading, who proclaims with conviction the truth that we called to love God and others. We pray to have such clarity, certainty and confidence in our job, our marriage or vocation, let alone our faith life. William Barclay also acknowledges Thomas’ one true mistake: that he withdrew from the Christian fellowship. He sought loneliness rather than togetherness. He was so broken-hearted that he could not be with others, but could only be alone with his grief. And because he was not there with his fellow Christians he missed the first visit by Jesus. And how true this is in our own lives: we miss a great deal when we separate ourselves from God and others and try to be or go-it alone – this is the very essence of sin. So it is good that we are here, in this fellowship of Christians, to encounter our risen Lord in Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist. So it is important for us to note that it is in the fellowship of the Christian community Thomas encounters Jesus. Even more notable is that a week after his first visit Jesus came again, through locked doors, stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you,” and then spoke directly to Thomas. Jesus, in his great love, in his great mercy – his divine mercy, knew Thomas’ heart and overwhelmed him with the deep and unfailing love of God. Pope Francis describes this encounter this way: Jesus reacts with patience towards Thomas; Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief; he gives him a week’s time; he does not close the door; he waits – and because of this, Thomas is transformed, no longer an unbeliever, but a believer! Pope Francis goes on to remind us that God is always waiting for us; he never grows tired. It is Jesus who shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence, hope – so that we might also be transformed, like Thomas, by God’s love! I pray that you may know and be transformed by the great patience our God has for you. Regardless of your doubt, offense, rejection, pain, or hurt, our God is patiently – in his deep and unfailing love and mercy - waiting for you.
Posted by Jeffrey Fortkamp at 11:11 AM