Painting by Caravaggio
So often Thomas is associated with doubting, especially in relation to faith. Although we hear in the other resurrection Gospels that other disciples doubted as well. Let us not forget Mr. and Mrs. Cleopas who skipped town after the crucifixion and were “found out” on the road to Emmaus when the Stranger caught up with them. However, the finger is often pointed at Thomas and we might hear the expression, “Doubting Thomas” in some gatherings.
As I reflected on this Gospel, I thought that Thomas is like many of us who sometimes just need to take leave of all the tensions, trauma, and “too muching” of highly intense events. We then struggle to get back to balance and our inner center. He just witnessed the betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus, whom he loyally followed for three years. Don’t we all have our own individual and unique ways of holding our pain and the ache of our grief?
Perhaps the disciples searched for Thomas, and upon finding him invited Thomas to gather with them once again as they shared their experience of the Risen Jesus. He may have felt hurt, or jealous, or still be in pain upon hearing that Jesus appeared in the flesh to them and he was absent. He knew what he saw and experienced as the Roman soldiers pierced the side of Jesus and nailed him to the cross. It was too much for his person to hold! He needed space far away to let the pain of it all weave through his weary spirit.
But this time, he was in need of some facts – pie charts, bar graphs, graphics, and possibly a spread sheet with more data! So often in our own journey of faith, have we not murmured . . . “OK, God, show me a sign and then I’ll believe it . . .” Thomas is all of us who in our faithing have to be invited by our God again and again to trust and to risk being loved unconditionally.
Jesus came in the way that Thomas most needed. He instructed Thomas to put his hand in his side and fingers in the place of the nails if that is what Thomas needed. We don’t know if he did. But he did as with laser speed move to a deeper place of belief and exclaimed, “MY LORD and MY GOD!!" This was Thomas’ own moment of inner rising!
So let us pray this day that the hand of God touch into the wounds of our world. Are we not weary with the violence, wars, injustices, and deaths that humanity has inflicted upon itself and creation?
Let us also pray that we let God’s fingers probe our minds, hearts, and spirits to release us from anything that keeps us in doubt or resistant to receiving God’s grace, mercy, and unconditional love. Peace be to all of us!!
Hendrick Terbrugghen, Doubting Thomas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1604