Today we read of two forces that hold back not only the first Christians, but which can still be active in our own lives from time to time.
Our attention today can be focused on both fear (with its accompanying desire for safety symbolized for us in the locked doors) and doubt (with its accompanying desire for proof and physical evidence). The disciples model the first attitude of fear, and Thomas personifies the doubt and the desire for proof.
The response of Jesus is revealing. His first encouragement is to offer peace – an elusive reality in the wider world, but one that he encourages and offers to each disciple amid everything around them. It is worth taking a moment to savour this moment. Jesus recognises that faithful discipleship does not insulate one from either fear or doubt, but he also shows a way to move forward towards the trust that grows from experience of his presence.
Seek inner calm, stop, rest in the experience of his presence and look beyond mere reactions and over-thinking. Faith is a relationship, one profoundly centred on being with Jesus and trusting him. A peaceful inner disposition enables one to be still enough and focused enough to touch such presence.
Further, Jesus reveals to them the wounds of the Passion. Showing these wounds is more about revealing love than an offer of proof. Like all relationships, love draws people into intimacy of all kinds, and faith is no different. Jesus reveals the depth of his love, symbolized by the wounds and suffering he endured, and this same love invites relationship. Faith is our relationship with Jesus in action.
There is one other lesson from today’s reading. While faith is an individual gift, our Christian lives are meant to be lived in a community context. Thus, when Thomas is alone, he follows his own instincts and logic and forms an opinion – he does not believe. He echoes the world around us, seeking empirical evidence always and demanding proofs for things that are more mysterious and intuitive. When alone he cannot find faith. However, when he is with the community his doubts cease and he finds faith and trust are the keys to his life (not logic).
To me, this only highlights how important your faith is to all those around you. We all make up that tapestry that Thomas needed (and so do we) – for when he is amid a believing community, he does not need proofs, he finds all he needs to believe, within.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.