Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
Thomas the Twin, the disciple in today’s gospel is known by most of us as “Doubting Thomas.” Nonetheless, many theologians think that trademark is a misinterpretation of the story we heard today. Think about it, we all have had doubts, and I am sure that we all have at some time said, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” or “I doubt that,” or “the proof is in the pudding.” Thomas was no doubter; he was a realist.
As the narrative goes, a few days before they all gathered in fear behind locked doors, Thomas knew Jesus had died the cruel death of crucifixion. So, when Jesus appeared to the apostles, Thomas was the one who asked for proof of Jesus’ resurrection. He wanted to touch the wounded hands, the pierced side, and the scarred hands. Thomas was mis-labeled a doubter because that required some form of belief. Thomas was an unbeliever period and had not yet come to faith.
There is a subtle, but distinct difference between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is a situation we find ourselves somewhere between belief and disbelief. Doubt involves uncertainty and a lack of sureness about something. When in doubt, the mind remains suspended between two polar opposite conclusions, and the people who find themselves in this place, may not be able to commit to either assertion. Thomas was not in doubt, he just did not believe Jesus had been raised. Thomas was not a skeptic. Thomas was a realist who needed proof, in order to believe.
Belief requires a heart change
How many of us are like Thomas? We struggle to go all the way in this faith journey, because we need to see proof of it all. For some of us, making the commitment to follow Jesus as a disciple is a challenge, not because we have doubt, but because we are not ready to fully trust Jesus as Lord.
When Thomas came to belief in Christ, it required his heart to be changed. Thomas not only acquiesced to his newfound knowledge of the reality of the Risen Christ, the knowledge led him to a faith proclamation. A tiny seed of faith in Jesus’ had been planted in that moment of resurrection in front of him, and he responded in turn, with TRUST in Jesus’ promises. This unbeliever, in a pivotal moment, proclaimed Jesus as “My Lord and My God.”
When the evidence of the crucifixion became evident in Christ’s resurrected body, Thomas did not jump on the fence and say, I like what the man teaches and so I’ll hang around with him and with these others. No, Thomas jumped over the fence of unbelief, and he became a believer in action. Thomas went from unbelief to proclaimer. Thomas saw the Risen Christ and his whole life changed from that moment on. Belief requires a heart change.
Faith, Trust, Belief
Theologian Rex Chaplain asserts that there are several elements of faith or trust. He wrote, “Christian faith involves an assertion of the truth of what is believed, a personal experience of that truth in one’s life, a kind of loving action that flows from it, and a constancy of approach in trust.” (Rex Chapman [Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1983], p. 144). In other words, we believe, we proclaim, we respond, and we remain faithful.
When we acknowledge and trust we are in a loving relationship with God, we also must be ready for times of uncertainty and doubt. We all have moments when we doubt, but uncertainty is a part of any relationship, because love comes with its moments of doubt. The antithesis of faith is not doubt, but the antithesis of faith is absolute exact certainty.
Skepticism is an essential element of the human psyche, and so when it comes to discipleship, we can find solace in knowing that doubt is not failure. Being, growing into, and remaining a person of faith is a life-long marathon and not a 100-yard dash.
Many saints through the ages have lived their entire lifetime of believing and proclaiming, while filled with doubting and questioning. In 1953, beloved Mother Teresa wrote in her memoirs, “Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself — for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.’” Even she had moments of doubt, and people look to her as a guide to living the life of fait
For us, your mere presence watching from home this day, your ongoing prayers for one another and the world, your trust in God when all around us seems so God-less attests to you faith, even in moments of doubt. You see, faith transforms us , it moves us to express that transformation in action and in words. Faith drives us to proclaim Jesus as Lord by adopting a life of love, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. Our faith changes how we live, and how we live changes our faith, because the Spirit working in us, giving us space for grace, transforms us so that we can give space for grace for others. Faith puts us on missipon
Faith Leads Us to Mission
Our mission is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. We are a people who gather together, but we are also sent out to be reconcilers and restorers in the world. As the co-missioners with Christ, we are sent out to heal, we are sent out to restore, and we are sent out to show others that Christ frees us from the hold our failures have over us. Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” God restores us when we fall short. Our mission is to do what our Lord does and restore others when they fall short.
Jesus sends out all disciples, to engage in his ministry of reconciliation in the world. Our trust in Jesus as “Lord of our Lives” means we not only embrace his ministry of love, peace, reconciliation, and restoration, but we become instruments of God’s love. We live the life of faith in our relationships with those closest to us, in our relationships with each other in the church, and more directly, in our witness of God’s love in this community and beyond.
Our mission given to us by Jesus himself is to take that life-changing power he gives us in the Spirit and go out there. This mission of love is made possible because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ; God’s reconciliatory love that overcomes death. Despite the scars of our lives, we through our baptism and by the gift of the Holy Spirit breathed into us, go out carrying on Christ’s mission of love in the world. By loving those who are broken, those seeking God’s love, we are revealing the grace that transforms scars into Good News for all.