Apr 9, 2018
We are familiar with the phrase seeing is believing and in the hyper-technological age we live in, with so much seeing going on…it seems there is little room left for faith…and as the name Didymus means twin…perhaps more often than not we are guilty of being the identical twin of Thomas, at least in spirit…insisting that unless we see things improving in the world and in my own personal life…I too will have a very difficult time believing in the power and goodness of God.
This was the case when during Holy Week I watched a movie called the Case for Christ. A good movie, but the book is a more outstanding disciple training manual that will enable us to know and appreciate better and share better what it is we believe about Jesus Christ.
In 1980, Lee Strobel's award-winning, investigative reporting earns him a promotion to legal editor at the Chicago Tribune. Things at home aren't going nearly as well. His wife Leslie's newfound faith in Christ compels Lee to utilize his journalistic training to try and disprove the claims of Christianity, pitting his resolute atheism against her growing faith.
He discovers that the greatest challenge to the Christian Faith is suffering…that with so much of it, it hardly looks as though we are a redeemed people living in a redeemed world. As one teacher/mentor shared with Lee:
I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. . . . In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world.
But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering.
And not just the stamp of one mark-but quite a few: The scourge marks striping his body front and back-the nail marks in his hands and feet-those made by the crown of thorns circling His sacred head and perhaps the most significant mark of all, the one on his side: here Thomas bring your hand and put it into my side and do not be unbelieving but believe.
From out of this mark, there flowed water and blood…the two greatest elements in the Church. This water that enables us in baptism to be children of God and co-heirs with Christ to the inheritance of Heaven and blood which feeds and nourishes us by way of Christ’s now risen body in the Holy Eucharist.
This occurring when Christ has already died on the cross…indicating to us in the most dramatic way…that even in death, Christ is still able to give to us the live-giving gift of Himself…reminding us, that in our dying and death we possess a similar power and maintain a similar connection of life, love and intimacy with those here on earth.
This is a God then who suffers with us and in us. Why then the focus of Thomas on seeing those crucifixion wounds, would it not have been enough just to see Jesus?
Perhaps it is because Thomas, along with all of us, wants to recognize in those wounds now trophies that there is a point, purpose and meaning to suffering, dying and death and most important of all…there is a remedy for it. Seeing Christ suffer and die on the Cross…what is one to believe…believing that Christ is risen from the dead…what does one see? That Good Friday is one day…and despite appearances in the world…Easter Sunday is forever.
Christ then has demonstrated how the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the world ended up resulting in the very best thing that has ever happened. Deicide: The death of God himself on the cross. At the time, nobody saw how anything good could ever result from this tragedy. And yet God foresaw that the result would be the opening of heaven to human beings.
So the worst tragedy in history brought about the most glorious event in history. And if it happened there—if the ultimate evil can result in the ultimate good—it can happen elsewhere, even in our own individual lives. Here, God lifts the curtain and lets us see it. Elsewhere he simply says, ‘Trust me.” As today’s Divine Mercy Sunday celebration would have us say and pray with each breath left in our bodies: Jesus I trust in you, Jesus I trust in you, Jesus I trust in you.
Thomas like the others wants a savior and messiah to save them from their sufferings and inflict them instead upon their enemies. They do not want a savior who instead of relieving all suffering endures and actually embraces all suffering in His own person and from His own battered, beaten, bloodied and exhausted and dead body provide the remedy not to remove our sufferings, but with Christ have them infused with redemptive value.
Seeing so much pain and suffering it is hard to believe that God exists or worse that if He does exist, He just doesn’t care. Or to just believe that God is God, so totally and infinitely other than us, that it is completely inconceivable that He is also human just like us…therefore with little care or concern for what we go through not being human…much as a human would have little concern for what a bug daily has to go through not being one oneself. I know how you feel…how can you…you’re not human.
At the time of the crucifixion, the disciples couldn’t see how anything good could result; similarly, as we face struggles and trials and suffering, we sometimes can’t imagine good emerging. But we’ve seen how it did in the case of Jesus, and we can trust it will in our case too.
This is the tension between Thomas’ doubt and faith…a situation of “it is too good to be true.”
“As we look at human relationships, what we see is that lovers don’t want explanations, but presence. And what God is essentially, is presence-the doctrine of the Trinity says God is three persons who are present to each other in perfect knowledge and perfect love.
That’s why God is infinite joy. And insofar as we can participate in that presence, we too have infinite joy. And Thomas standing before the risen Christ who is showing Him those wounds is now experiencing the joy of not only being re-united with Christ but the joy of knowing that because He is human, His divinity now fills us enabling us the power to live and love and be joyful forever.
Our faith gives us access to that presence and power too.
Thomas wasn’t looking for fancy explanations or more stories, He wanted Jesus present not so much as proof of the Resurrection as a desire satisfied to be once more with the Man who he had affectionately come to call teacher and friend and now, My Lord and My God…a statement that recognizes in that one breath of uttered faith…Jesus Christ is the Son of Man and the Son of God.
Do we not feel as much when those we love pass away? As much as people inundate us with comforting thoughts, gestures and even religious explanations of dying and death…what we want most is our departed loved one present…in person…not as a ghost…a vision…or in a dream…but to see, hear and best of all embrace. This is man’s supreme happiness to see God face to face…as Thomas does today…My Lord and My God.
Today is the assurance then that Jesus is still God and not just God but Man risen from the dead by the power of God…the assurance of our human hope in salvation. That seeing Christ in the Holy Eucharist me may say: My Lord and My God…or in the faces of others who like us are created and redeemed in His glorified image:
My Lord and My God…that when we pass from this temporary Good Friday like Life to the everlasting Easter Sunday joy of Heaven…where face to face, embraced we may say My mother and My father, My wife and my husband…my grandmother and my grandfather…my son and my daughter…my best friend and my mentor…my pet and all my family and friends because with Thomas we may say with absolute confidence and trust: My Lord and My God…Jesus I trust in you.