Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Thomas Sunday

John Granville Gregory ~ The Incredulity of Thomas

Here is a contemporary depiction of Thomas and his friends examining the side-wound of the Risen Jesus. Wearing glasses and nice leather jackets, these young men are today. Jesus has a grip on the examining boy's wrist. Maybe he's saying: You can't be a sensation seeker (some religious folks are) and I won't let you go until you respond to me one way or the other. 

But poor Thomas, we're so unfair to him. We think we know or understand, our responses so simplistic and superficial, slapping on cliche-labels like: Doubting Thomas. Nothing more to say. Done deal. 

As if we'd do better than he. Thomas' friend was brutally killed on Friday and a few days later the other apostles said, "Some women of our company reported Jesus is alive." Mind you, in the ancient world a woman was never considered a credible witness. And so yes, Thomas has some trouble accepting this resurrection-news and asks for a sign.

But we constantly ask for signs and in situations not nearly as grave as the one Thomas is experiencing: Which job should I take?...give me a sign. Which boyfriend/girlfriend should I go with?...give me sign. Will I be successful in the future?...give me a sign. Are my relatives safe on the other side...give me a sign. Should I get married or should I be a nun?...give me a sign. Poor God, how we test him!

Maybe so many Christians are themselves so unbelieving of who Jesus is that they miss the fundamental faith-statement Thomas makes: My Lord and my God - and instead hone in on what we perceive to be lacking, "I won't believe unless..." Some people seem to imagine Thomas asks for the sign with a testy attitude.

Thomas wants to believe. He's full of goodwill and loves Jesus. And that's why Jesus gives him the sign of his visible wounds, unlike the Pharisees who really don't believe and don't like Jesus, to whom Jesus refuses a sign.

The wounds Thomas saw didn't cause him to believe. Thomas had faith in Jesus and touching the wounds of the Risen Christ released his powerful expression of faith. Questioning and struggling don't mean we reject belief or are spiritually defective. 

In a world such as ours today I would say, persisting in faith through the struggles and doubts pleases Jesus, who surely notices. So let's be done with this silly and unkind label we slap on Thomas and start a new trend, referring to him as Believing Thomas, and ask him for help from heaven in a very difficult world.

7 comments:

  1. Believe in each other as God believes in us. Even in our doubts about ourselves, having faith carries us through. Thank you for these Sunday thoughts.

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  2. I can identify with Thomas. There have been times in my life when honestly, I, too, have questioned and struggled. I thought it was from a lack of faith and belief. So I loved the parts in Pauca Verba today, Father Stephen, when you wrote, "Questioning and struggling don't mean we reject belief or are spiritually defective" and "Persisting in faith, through the struggles and doubts pleases Jesus, who surely notices." When I look for signs of Jesus through the eyes of my heart, he is EVERYWHERE! He never gives up on me despite my human frailties. Thank God!

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  3. This is a great post for the young. The young have tough questions at times. They need straight answers. Jesus doesn't seem to mind their curiosity. I pray, they are lead to Jesus Christ.

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  4. Young people need straight answers. Yes. They need straight answers that aren't presented in Church speak or "straight" out of a book. How about "straight from the heart." Do we understand the things of the heart. Jesus tells us to pay attention to the heart. A lot of young people have given up on the Church because the Church often gives answers that are more geared to shutting down inquiry. "Here's the answer like it or not."

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    1. Young people today are not even asking questions related to the Church. They don't have enough exposure to even think that religion can figure into their lives. You cannot give up on something you never had. And isn't this the sad truth?

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    2. Sadder still is: How did this happen? Why did this happen? And we ought not to be so quick to blame the young people or their culture or their education. Thomas Merton writes extensively as to HOW so many vocations were thrown away or lost to monasticism in his own time - 1950's and 60's because the Church didn't invite questions and when a question WAS raised by a young monk, he was either told he had weak faith, or that the question should be better framed the Church's way or a pre-digested answer was given. At any rate - many hundreds of monks simply left. The book is Contemplation in a World of Action - the second or third chapter on monasticism and vocations. But it's really about the Church.

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  5. It is important to note that Jesus did not have to fulfill Thomas’s request. He was not obligated in the slightest bit. Thomas had spent three years intimately acquainted with Jesus witnessing all His miracles and hearing His prophecies about His coming death and resurrection. That, and the testimony Thomas received from the other disciples about Jesus’ return, should have been enough, but still he doubted. Jesus knew Thomas’s weakness, just as he knows ours.

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