Seeing is not the only form of believing
Those of us who have had a profound personal encounter with Jesus are compelled to share that experience with others. We have "seen the Lord," and so our faith is deepened and enriched. We share this experience with others, and as a result others have their faith strengthened and renewed.
One of the original witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus was St. Thomas the Apostle, a fascinating character who appears in all four Gospels. The name "Thomas" comes from a Hebrew root which means "paired" or "twin." St. John's Gospel refers to him several times as "Didymus" which is a Greek nickname for "twin" (cf. John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2).
We all know the familiar story of Thomas' disbelief. According to St. John's Gospel, "Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.'" (John 20:24-25)
In fact, the phrase "doubting Thomas" has come to signify someone who is skeptical about anything that is not plainly evident. That makes Thomas a Missourian -- a patron saint for all of us who reside in the Show-Me State!
Earlier in St. John's Gospel, Jesus says to His disciples, "Where I am going you know the way." But Thomas intervenes. "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" (John 14:4-5) Thomas takes nothing for granted. He needs to see for himself, to be given precise details. The Lord's response is powerful: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him." (John 14:6-7)
When we look at Jesus, we see God. When we follow Him, we discover the truth about ourselves and our world. Through an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, we find the peace and joy that can only come by living His way.
"Show me the way," we say with Thomas, full of skepticism and doubt. "I am the way," says Jesus. "Follow me and you will have the fullness of life."
Like Thomas, we hesitate. We demand proof. We do not want to open our hearts only to be disappointed, to have our trust betrayed by false hopes. "Show me," we say. And Jesus responds as He did in St. John's Gospel: "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." (John 20:27)
How does the risen Lord appear to us today? In the witness of holy men and women (living and deceased) who show us by their words and actions that they too have seen the Lord. In the good works done in Jesus' name. In our prayer and our meditation on God's Word. And above all, we encounter the risen Lord in the holy Eucharist, the breaking of the bread.
What does the Lord say to us when we meet Him? How blessed you are when you do not see and yet believe! (cf. John 20:29) We truly are blessed when we can let go of our lack of trust; when we can open our hearts and let the risen Lord enter; and when we allow the wounds of Christ (the nail marks in His hands and feet, the hole in His pierced side) to prove how much He loves us.
Doubts are natural -- even for us believers. That's why we should look to St. Thomas the Apostle. His example provides comfort in our insecurity. It shows us that even doubts can lead to faith: the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
The risen Lord says to Thomas, and to all of us, "Do not be unbelieving, but believe." (John 20:27) This Easter season let's open our hearts to Him. Let's believe in Him in spite of our doubts. And let's follow Him on the way to life!
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