Doubting Thomas

first_img Tweet Photo credit: foodforthespiritualsoul.wordpress.comTwo thousand years of Catholic sermons, paintings, and articles on religious subjects have fixed Thomas in ourminds as ‘doubting Thomas.’ A recent cartoon I saw has him crying out, “All I’m saying is we don’t call Peter ‘denying Peter.’” Why we became so comfortable in labelling Thomas that way is hard to fathom. He made a perfectly reasonable request in a unique situation. A man whom everyone saw brutally killed, reportedly came back from the dead,and was appearing to people. How could anyone give instant credibility to what was obviouslythe height of fantasy and wishful thinking?And there’s more. When the prophetic literature in the Bible spoke of the dead rising again, reference was either to the general resurrection at the end of time or to national renaissance, i.e., a rebirth of Israel, the nation. No one – and no disciple – imagined that such traditional expectations referred to the dead pre-emptively, so to speak, rising from the grave, still less of death being overcome. The disciples were perfectly in line with Jewish feeling on the matter, and so was Thomas. What dominated their consciousness after the crucifixion was disappointment over their hopes, and the fear of retaliation from the Jews.Labelling Thomas as doubtful Thomas did more than target him unfairly; it made us smug and complacent, and did a great disservice to faith itself. It implied that no shadow of doubt ever threatenedourcertainty and that the light of faith was as lucid as the light of day. But a moment’s reflection shows us what a false pictureof faith this is.The world of faith, as S. Paul wrote, is not a world of sight. We do not see what we believe, though quite often we act as if we did, as if the divine order were visually continuous with the natural order. This is inevitable, of course. We have no eyesight or mental apparatus capable of beholding divine realities. This why our greatest mystics, who themselves saw more than we do,remind us repeatedly not to pay too much attention to things like visions and locutions. It’s why the Church speaks so reticently about miracles, even while it validates them. Walk by faith, it all says to us, not by sight. But walking by faith means consenting to walk amid the difficulties of not seeing. Difficulties and doubts may not strictly mean the same thing, as Newman once said: “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” Except that when one is in the throes of difficulty, the distinction seems purely academic. Many of us can remember the kind of internal trauma we suffered when it began to get around that the first pages of the Bible were not history. We’re beyond that now because we have come to see that the real issue was never about the mechanics of creation. It was more fundamentally about whether we live in a meaningless environment or a meaningful cosmos. Genesis says no, the cosmos is not meaningless, because God created it. It is good and can realize all God’s intended purposes. Many people are yet to accept the centrality of metaphor in the infancy narratives (the account of the birth of Christ). The internal trauma, one can be sure, is or will be much the same. It may not cause them to disbelieve in the actuality of the birth – but a similar tension will exist between difficulty and doubt.To walk by faith means to acknowledge the fact that faith develops, and that no development, whether personal or social, takes place without internal difficulty and therefore without having to make internal adjustments.Faith today faces other kinds of challenges, involving difficulty in a more generalized sense. Difficulty and doubt that the whole edifice of belief, the language, imagery, the total content seems bypassed, belonging to an age when such things were once believable but now seemincredulous.This means that we are all subject to the influence of the surrounding culture. The atmosphere we live in today and breathe is scientific and technological. Whatever is not congruent with itspresumptions is inevitably felt to be quaint and beneath the attention of serious people.What this also means is that vulnerability is an essential dimension of faith today. Sometimes there’s nothing one can say. On the other hand, we can’t be just defensive. We may have to consent to be considered foolish, to be mocked or be smiled at tolerantly, in the way one smiles at a child.Every age of faith has signature challenges. This is ours, I think. Certainly one of them. It makes Thomas, at a remove of two thousand years, our brother. In a different sense. Nothing may make us disbelieve, but Easter makes us hope that the Lord may visits us nonetheless and confirm us in belief. By: Henry Charles PhD FaithLifestyleLocalNews Doubting Thomas by: – April 14, 2012 Share Sharecenter_img Share 76 Views   one comment Sharing is caring!last_img

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