Saturday, 18 April 2020

What is your claim to fame Thomas?

What is your claim to fame?  Every year on the Second Sunday of Easter we hear the story of Thomas.  It is a story that every one knows, it is a moniker that through countless centuries has stuck and it is one that does not appear, at least at first glance, to be very complimentary.  Poor Thomas!  He had the misfortune to not be present when Jesus appeared that first time.  In the first appearance, he offered his wounds as evidence of his identity to those present and when they tell Thomas he says well I want to see it too -- the proof!  And with that the moniker stuck!

Does this indicate that Thomas had a faith that was weaker than all others?  I don't see how that connects after all he gave up everything to follow Jesus just like the others had.  He wasn't around for the events of Good Friday, but then neither were the rest of the disciples.  When the women came with the news that Jesus was not in the tomb then like the others he likely would have run off to see for himself; so in many ways I think Thomas gets a bad rap for wanting proof.

More than this though I think Thomas is a fabulous example for the rest of us. Tell me you've never doubted something...tell me you haven't required proof...tell me that seeing for yourself has never crossed your mind or been uttered by you.  Thomas on so many levels is us.  He brings the human element to this story and as such has his own special, delayed Easter.  Thomas is probably my favourite disciple.  He lets us see that it is ok to have doubts, it is ok to raise questions and it is perfectly fine to struggle with faith even if everyone else around us is excited and pumped up from their experience.  He reminds us that not everyone will have exactly the same experience but when our time comes it will be special, challenging and profound in an entirely different way.

The other piece that we are not told is why Thomas was not with the others when the first appearance takes place, nor are we told where he is or what he is doing.  He is separated from his community as well as the leader that he has been with for the past few years.  Is he feeling lost and alone?  Does he need time to himself to come to terms with what this loss means for him personally?  Is he feeling separated from his community?  Again all pieces that we can relate to on some level.

And then Jesus appears again, signals out Thomas and issues an invitation to not merely look and see for himself but to reach out and touch the wounds.    And Thomas is reminded with this interaction that he is not alone.  Not alone in the struggle, not alone in the doubt and most importantly perhaps not alone on the journey as Jesus reminds Thomas that he did not leave him.  And through Thomas, with our doubts, fears, insecurities and struggles we too are reminded that the same promise is offered to us.  Jesus extends not merely his hands and wounds for viewing but he extends an invitation to all of us to hope, to love and to joy.  Will we, like Thomas, accept the invitation?

St. Thomas the Apostle

“We do not know… how can we know the way?”
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
And cut through their evasion and abstraction.
Oh doubting Thomas, father of my faith,
You put your finger on the nub of things
We cannot love some disembodied wraith,
But flesh and blood must be our king of kings.
Your teaching is to touch, embrace, anoint,
Feel after Him and find Him in the flesh.
Because He loved your awkward counter-point
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
Oh place my hands with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.

Malcolm Guite
Sounding the Seasons

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