C Cycle – 2nd Sunday of Easter 19
Jn, 20: 19-31
There are many scripture passages where we are given examples of faith exercised and faith faltering. Each of those stories challenge us to examine our own faith response to Jesus’s death and resurrection.
Just look at the story of Peter walking on water. He accepts the impossible call of Jesus to do what we all know cannot be done. We know he falters as he looked at the wind and waves and Jesus questions why he began to doubt and Jesus calls Peter a man of little faith (Mk. 14:31). What does that story say about the faith of the other disciples, at least Peter took that first step while they remained in the boat? The minute Peter took those first few steps the rests of them should have been anxious to also walk on water. Because they remained I their boat, does that mean their faith was minuscule?
The story in today’s gospel of Thomas’ doubt was given to us to look at our own doubts and moments of failing faith. We are challenged by this story to examine our own doubts and our own response to overcome those doubts. You and I have not seen the risen Christ, nor have we been challenged to walk on water but in our own relationship with God we have had those moments of doubt as well as our moments of having Jesus calling us to believe and trust in Him.
Keep in mind this gospel story takes place in that upper room the night of the resurrection. The day he was crucified the disciples had fled and hid from the authorities concerned because they followed Jesus, they would be the next to be crucified. We know from their response to the empty tomb they did not understand the resurrection and they were frightened and disillusioned. Twelve hours after they heard the words “they have taken the Lord and we do not know where they put him” Jesus enters that upper room and stands before them. He appears to them and breathes the Holy Spirit upon them. With this breath of life breathed upon them have the fuel for their spiritual life given to them. Note this image is the spiritual equivalent of God breathing physical life into Adam. The Holy Spirit was promised by God to be the source of our spiritual life.
The instant the Holy Spirit filled them several things began happening within them. They immediately felt the forgiveness of God for their doubts and their abandoning Jesus. They also had the love of God poured into their hearts (Rom. 5:5) and they were empowered to go and preach the message of God’s forgiveness of sins. This was the fulfilling of God’s promise to send his Spirit to change our hearts (Ex. 36:26) and God told us he forgives our sin and remembers our guilt no more” (Jer. 31:31). That evening instantly all doubt, all remorse, all concern about how God would punish them was washed away from their minds. We know that evening when the Spirit was breathed, they were also empowering to be witnesses of God’s plan to restore sinners.
God has promised us the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to change us from uncertainty to the certainty we are forgiven, loved and gifted to attain that same faith proclaimed by Thomas and we too will acknowledging Jesus as Lord and God. Thomas shows us of our own need for more than becoming witnesses of forgiveness and mercy. God tells us repeatedly if we ask God will respond. Jesus will touch our hearts, our minds and change our doubt into active belief.
Doubt, uncertainty or a faith based on an intellectual acceptance of Jesus leads us to do things to support our faith. We demand proof so we pursue spiritual knowledge to know for certain the things we believe. In one sense this is what Thomas was doing for her heard the stories of Jesus appearing so he wanted proof. We also will do other things to ensure we are not failing to perform the requirements of what we understand as the standard of being faithful. The Pharisee in prayer is an example given to us by God showing how we overcompensate for what we lack in trust and believe in God’s mercy. The Pharisee prayed by saying “… thank God I am not like other people…I fast twice a week, I tithe on all I get” while the tax collector praying at the same time said “…be merciful to me for I am a sinner” (Lk. 18: 11-13).
Our faith is a gift from God moving us to desire an intimate relationship with Him and as our faith moves from our heads to our hearts. We know a barrier has been established between ourselves and God because of our sin and weaknesses. Jesus by his death and resurrection has removed that barrier. That was part of God’s plan to place the guilt of our sins on Jesus Christ as He died on the cross. The second part we see happening in that upper room, the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us. He promised the Holy Spirit would change our hearts and move us to depend on the Spirit and Jesus Christ to flood us with Divine Mercy opening our lips and hearts to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.
Doubt can never be removed from us by our own effort to become righteous, it will only lead us to a false feeling of being in right standing with God. God wants our hearts and promised us He would change our hearts so we can understand how faith comes from hearing the Word of God and feeling his love and forgiveness. We can go before Christ without pretense knowing that nothing, we did in the past nor anything we can do in the future will separate us from his love and mercy. The appearance of Jesus to the disciples in that upper room give us a vivid picture of what we must experience to become disciples. We must allow Jesus to speak to our hearts and hear him clearly telling us to go and proclaim the message of forgiveness.