Faith in the future
16 April 2023 2nd Sunday Easter, Year A
Listen to reflection
In the dramatic encounter between Jesus and the disciple Thomas after Jesus’s resurrection, Jesus invites Thomas – who is stricken with doubt – to put his hand into Jesus’ side. It provides a vivid example of how God draws close to us, despite our fears and doubts, when we struggle to find a way forward.
As a child, I used to watch my father develop photographs in a dark room illuminated only by a dim red light. As the photographic paper was dipped successively in different trays of chemicals, the latent photographic image emerged. At first, only a vague outline of the image would be visible. Increasingly, the image improved in clarity. The final product was always a sharp, focused and vivid black and white image. Our journey of faith is something like this, our understanding and insight slowly developing.
Thomas the disciple has often been portrayed in a negative light for voicing his doubts. Like Thomas, we desire God, yet are filled with doubt because we are unsure how to proceed. However, these moments of doubt, in both Thomas’s and our experience, rather than being viewed as falling short of the mark, should be regarded as opportunities where we are invited to take a step forward in faith.
We need to remember that in life, as in this Gospel account, Jesus takes the initiative by coming amongst us, blessing us with his peace and breathing upon us the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is also worth noting that the opposite of doubt is not the elimination of all uncertainty but an invitation to faith. Faith holds a candle to the path forward: yet the path is not necessarily one that is easy or carefree. The path forward, even when taken in faith, can still be filled with pain and uncertainty.
Nevertheless, Jesus accompanies us in this journey of faith. He lovingly invites Thomas to see his hands, to put his hand in his side. He says to Thomas and to all of us, “Feel my wounds.” This is no rebuke but an intimate, loving, bodily embrace of our flesh-and-blood humanity.
Jesus takes his place in our lives not just in the joyful certainties of our life but amidst those doubt-filled gaps. He faced those moments himself: in Gethsemane on the eve of his death and in those final moments on the cross. In his loving embrace of our humanity, he transforms those dark nights of the soul. “Reach out your hand and put it into my side,” he says encouragingly.
As children of the Resurrection, our awe-filled response, “My Lord and my God”, allows the flooding in of his remarkable grace and peace and redemption. It embeds his presence in our midst. Let us remember, as Thomas Merton observed, ”There is no such thing as a prayer in which ‘nothing is done’ or ‘nothing happens,’ although there may well be a prayer in which nothing is perceived or felt or thought.”
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