Thomas Griffin (7/3/20)
In our present moment in history, there is much to doubt or be cautious about in the arena of God and the good. Our nation appears to be more divided than ever, the globe cannot seem to shake this unprecedented pandemic, dialogue and discussion are being replaced with mob rule, and our churches continue to hold low attendance numbers as our country walks on the path of less restrictions. Let us look to the account of St. Thomas as a compass to navigate the stormy seas of doubt that may arise when we fight for the good.
On the night of that first Easter Sunday, Thomas is not present when Jesus appeared in the locked upper room and showed the disciples his wounds. He breathed on them and gave them his peace (John 20:21). When the other disciples approached Thomas and relayed to him what they had seen he did not believe. Here, we are provided with the reason why he is referred to as Doubting Thomas.
The doubting apostle made the proclamation that has been repeated in some way, shape or form by countless doubters and echoed down the centuries as the cry of those who preach that if God was real and loved us he would not let bad things happen to good people. Thomas stated, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). He gave God an ultimatum: “physically show me that you are real and alive or I am not buying it.”
Thomas’ doubt might have been the result of many causes, such as his personality, his experience of the lack of trust in authority, or he was simply having a rough week. However, what if his fight to believe the large group of witnesses, whom he had lived with and traveled with for over three years, is grounded in his disappointment that if what they’re saying is true, Jesus came when he wasn’t there. He experienced Jesus’ power, authority, and supernatural knowledge; so he might have concluded that Christ chose to not reveal himself to Thomas.
Either way, Thomas doubted and placed belief on the chopping block of physical and tangible proof versus trust in witnesses who happened to be his closest friends (more like family). Jesus either appeared to the apostles or he didn’t. The apostles were either telling the truth or they were lying or they were confused about figments of their imagination. Jesus is either God or he isn’t; he either rose from the dead or he didn’t. One side holds the truth and the other side holds the lie.
Thomas, like many others in history, voted for the lie because he was not there; he did not see with his own eyes what happened. So, Jesus decided to show up. A week later, while they were gathered in the upper room, and Thomas was with them, Jesus appeared again. He arrived with the same greeting of peace, but Christ does not even allow a response; he instantly made his way towards the doubter.
Jesus moved towards Thomas and said, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (John 20:27). Christ responded to Thomas’ threat and demand of belief with his own demand. “Here, physically touch my wounds and see me risen.” Thomas responded, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
The deciding factor that shifted Thomas’s belief was contact with the risen Jesus’ wounds. This must have been the same man who he had known and lived with so closely, the same teacher, the same healer and miracle worker, and the same man who was brutally beaten, humiliated and killed just a few days prior.
For us today, we must bring our doubts to God, similar to Thomas. Doubting is not ideal, but it is a reality of humanity. Notice what Thomas did with that doubt and how it was pivotal: he did not desert and he did abandon the faith community. If we pray for God to show us his presence and we don’t experience what Thomas did, we are not to give up. We are called to remain faithful to the end and to immerse ourselves with constant contact with Jesus in the Eucharist, where he reveals his risen wounds.
Christ applauded Thomas’ renewed belief, but he pointed to us, the future Church, as the ones who are most blessed: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
We believe that God is real, that Jesus is God, and that Christ truly rose from dead. These are all assertions that may come with occasional doubts, however, they are either true or false. Thomas paves the way today for us to be assured of what we believe, even though we have not physically seen God in the same manner.
We believe because it is true, and because the witnesses are trustworthy. Thomas became a martyr for the faith, along with every other apostle besides John. He, and the others, died because they refused to deny the truth: Jesus is alive; he is Lord; he is God.
Thomas Griffin teaches Apologetics in the religion department at a Catholic high school on Long Island and lives with his wife. He received a master’s degree in theology and is currently a master’s candidate in philosophy. He writes for several Catholic media outlets.
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