Week of 29 April, 2019

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

~ John 20:29 ~

I have a soft spot for St Thomas. It is all too easy to see him, after the traitor Judas Iscariot, as the ‘weakest link’ (if I may use a game show analogy) in the Twelve. His blunt refusal to accept his fellow disciples’ claims to have seen the risen Christ is almost always seen as a sign of weakness, a sign of loss of faith.

This is unfair.

Look closely at the gospel accounts of the Resurrection over the past week. Thomas was not alone in his doubt. Apart from Mary of Magdala and some of the other women who visited Jesus’ tomb, very few seem to have taken the rumours of resurrection seriously.

The only significant difference is that Thomas had the courage to express his doubts openly.

I respect Thomas for that. Alone it seems of all the disciples he seems to have been willing to say what was on many of their minds. Dare I add, on many of our minds?

Nor should one see Thomas’ scepticism as a sign of weakness, stupidity or lack of faith. Then and now the idea of resurrection is to anyone with more than one functional brain cell at best a stretch of the imagination, at worst utter nonsense. Any honest rational person should applaud Thomas for demanding more evidence before accepting the claim of the Resurrection.

Yet when he encounters the risen Christ we read how Thomas made his confession of faith. Not just that, in his proclamation “My lord and my God” he moves far beyond his friends in affirming something deeper than the mere resuscitation of a corpse: it is God who has raised Jesus to new life.

It is all too easy, too, to see Thomas as a ‘lesser’ disciple if we read Jesus’ words a certain way that suggests that those who have never seen Jesus risen and yet believe are somehow better than Thomas. I think we need to read it another way: those who struggle to believe in a Resurrection they have never ‘seen’ are not to be treated as second class believers. Indeed those who struggle with this should rather take courage in the fact that there was someone like Thomas who questioned the whole thing.

Thomas is for us today a model for believers who struggle to believe in the Resurrection, whether in the event itself or in actually feeling the resurrection now as we celebrate Easter now. We have more in common with the early disciples of Christ than we imagine.

Thomas is also a model for us as we try to live the Resurrection. For after his faith was renewed Thomas became a courageous apostle of Christ. Millions of Christians in India claim that he brought the faith to India, a faith that endured from the first century till today.

Not bad for a sceptic. And not a bad example for many who today find ourselves trying to live our lives of faith amidst our doubts.

 

Father, as we celebrate the resurrection this Easter, help us to encounter you anew in the Risen Christ in our own lives. Open our eyes to see the work of your Spirit in our lives and fill our hearts with gratitude to you for being with us. Help us to speak and to proclaim you with our words and actions. Turn our doubts into faith and help us to believe. Amen.

 

Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

Reflection prepared by and

Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

a.egan@jesuitinstitute.org.za
See more from Anthony Egan SJ
Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Matthew manages the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and is involved in the Spirituality work whilst completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and is also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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