Monday, 2 July 2012

Thomas and Me

John 20

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

It is difficult to know what to say about this Gospel that hasn't been said before.
Thomas the Doubter is given to us as a person who questions- the 'everyman' who, after this encounter with the Risen Lord, is able to make the great proclaimation of faith 'My Lord and My God'.

John, you may know, is the poet of the Gospels, the wordsmith. Like me, he never uses one word when a verse will do. 

And he is clever- he uses words with more than one meaning - he plays on our understanding. One of the words he most like to play with is 'see' - given that it can mean; physical seeing with the eyes, knowing and understanding, or spiritual encountering.

In spiritual encountering there are many levels but two you may have heard of are consolation and desolation. Very briefly these are the times when we are spiritually and often physically and emotionally aware of the presence or absence of God. The presence - consolation - is pure gift and grace - because after that there is no 'doubt' and, so, even when desolation comes - the sense of absence - you know who is absent. The absence may cause distress but the sheer fact that you miss God means that God exists.

And actually, we cannot believe in a Jesus we have not seen, any of us. We can learn the words, read the stories, follow the instructions. We can hope and we can pray. And we can do that every day, all of our lives. We can be active for social justice, we can live in a Christian culture, we can belong and be involved in a parish - all very good, all very human. Perhaps to believe in the human Jesus - the Nazarene - is enough to make us want to just be better people - as he was 'the best of us'.

We don't need to believe in a Risen Christ for that. But to take the journey that step further - to enter into God, for God to enter into me - I have to see - encounter the Cosmic everythingness of Christ who is also Jesus. And that is not just with eyes, fingers, hands but with heart and soul and every atom of who I am. Even just once, to know the Presence, to recognise the Absence. To be happy to believe.



claire said...

Really good, Word. Really good. Thank you.

Philomena Ewing said...

thanks Word.I love this reflection, and I think that the poles of consolation and desolation are like a hinge by which faith and doubt can sometimes operate.

I've linked to you in my post today :-))

Lynda said...

This is an outstanding post - the last paragraph is especially powerful. Thank you very much.

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you all and blessings on this day that we can all identify with :) +X