2nd Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2017 8:45 and 11:00am Masses
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore
I have grown to really dislike the expression doubting Thomas.
I and probably at least some of you have heard this expression and maybe even used it. We might call others a doubting Thomas if they refuse to believe something.
Obviously, this expression is based on the gospel story that we just heard. Thomas refuses to believe unless he himself sees and touches Jesus.
But then, Thomas ends up making one of the most beautiful professions of faith in all of Scripture. He calls Jesus “My Lord and my God.”
Still, our tradition has dubbed him doubting Thomas. We have kind of looked down upon him and his faith as less than the other disciples.
Well, as I said, I have grown uncomfortable with calling Thomas doubting.
I think it would be much better to refer to him as seeking Thomas. Thomas isn’t closed to believing in the risen Christ.
In fact, he wants to believe and he is seeking faith or else he would not be with the disciples on that Sunday after the resurrection. So Thomas stands as a good example for all those who are seeking to understand more about God.
Today some scholars of religion tell us that many people experience this seeking in their faith.
These scholars tell us that this seeking should really be seen not as a lack of faith, but as a stage or a dimension of faith. As I see it today, persons of faith might be seeking or questioning in a number of ways.
For example, some who are seeking might question certain sections of the Scripture. How can the image of a militant and vengeful God in parts of the Old Testament harmonize with the picture of God that Jesus presents?
Or, some who are seeking might question the designation of God only as Father. After all, isn’t God the source and creator of both genders and doesn’t that tell us something about the identity of God?
Or, some who are seeking might question why the Church prohibits Catholics who are married outside the Church from receiving Communion. Why are they prohibited from receiving Communion when those who express racial prejudice or insensitivity for the poor are not prohibited?
I have listened to those seeking and have heard these questions. I bet you have too.
I suggest that it is better not to look upon those are seeking as in some way less or to call them doubting Thomases. Rather, it is better to see this seeking as a stage or dimension of faith that some of us experience.
I want to conclude with two reflections that are really like two sides of one coin.
First, it is important for any of us who are seeking to stick with a community of faith. It is valuable to be part of a community or church.
This must be why Jesus intended that his followers identify together as a community. It must be why he formed what we call the Church.
Jesus knew that we need this community for our journey of faith. He intended the Church to support and guide us positively in our journey.
And my second reflection is really the other side of the coin. We as a Church need to take the approach of Jesus in today’s gospel.
Jesus engages Thomas and he does this right in the community of the disciples. The result is that Thomas gets satisfaction to his seeking and he believes.
Well, we, as a Church or as Saint Matthew’s Parish, we also need to be engaging. This means that we need to be welcoming and including and respecting, and not putting down or excluding those who are seeking.
This is the way that we as Church can provide a safe and nourishing, spiritual space. It is the best way that we can empower everyone and especially those who are seeking to come to a satisfying faith, much as Jesus does for seeking Thomas.