I’m a Doubting Thomas

Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle – July 2, 2018

St. Margaret Mary – Wichita, KS

Ephesians 2:19-22; Psalm 117:1b-2; John 20:24-29

I’m sure none of you have ever made this mistake, but for myself, I have always been one to idealize things. It’s always easy to make things seem better in your head than they are in reality; to idealize every situation. For example, it’s easy to start a project with enthusiasm, but as you slowly get into it and realize how difficult it’s going to be to finish it, the enthusiasm dies off. When you start at a new job, or a new school, or just “make a fresh start” to life–at the beginning it can be so full of enthusiasm and life, but then, slowly but surely, the enthusiasm starts to wane, the excitement of the “new” starts to fade, and it’s back to where you started.

The feast we celebrate today, the feast of the Apostle Thomas, is very similar to this. Early on, Thomas was the Apostle full of energy and enthusiasm in following the Lord. Earlier on, he encouraged the disciples, “Let us also follow Jesus, that we may die with him” (c.f., John 11:16). What dedication! What commitment to our Lord! But not much later, as Thomas continues to follow our Lord, things get tough; as our Lord continues to preach, Thomas’ illusions and ideals of who Jesus is begin to fade. He eventually asks Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going? How can we know the way?” (c.f., John 14:5). Following Jesus begins to get tough, illusions start to fade, enthusiasm starts to wane.

So by the time we finally get to this scene we hear in our Gospel today, we can understand Thomas’ position. Doubt has slowly but surely crept in to his faith in Jesus. I think we can all put ourselves in Thomas’ shoes. At some point, this “following Jesus business” doesn’t seem to be what we signed up for, this pilgrimage we walk doesn’t seem to be through the verdant pastures of repose nor near gentle waters. Yet, more often than not, when we can take a step back and look at it, we realize we might have idealized the whole thing way too much and been led astray by our own thoughts of how we thought this should go. Yes! Jesus is God. Yes! We have the fulness of Truth, the sacraments, and so on and so forth. And yet, we still run into these moments where we just doubt…these moments of confusion, disbelief, distrust, fear, hesitation–doubt. Things don’t go as we thought they should, our relationships don’t turn out the way we thought, our relationship with our Lord is not as comforting as we thought it should be. Like Thomas, our faith slowly devolves as it takes us down a path we didn’t think it would, or should, go. And slowly but surely, we slip into that same doubt: doubt that stems from exhaustion, of just being tired at things not going the way you thought they should.

And yet, what we need is time to come in contact with our risen Lord, time to allow the Lord to approach us. Because then we’re given the opportunity to realize that, over and against our idealization of who we thought Jesus should be, Jesus is a concrete reality–and his ways are much better than the ways we could have imagined for ourselves. Just as he took up his cross and continues to bear the wounds from it, he comes to us–resurrected yet “wounded”–as a constant reminder and encouragement of the power of daily picking up our own crosses and following him, of it’s transformative power.

Today, we receive that same resurrected Lord, and like Thomas, come in contact with him saying with renewed faith proclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” (c.f., John :20:28).

Image: “The Disbelief of Saint Thomas” by Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)

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