These past 8 days had been the Octave of Easter. We were celebrating the solemnity of Easter every day, but were we? “Rejoice!” is the Easter shout but maybe not for many as we remain plagued by doubt because of the pandemic. 8 days as well, but of doubt, plagued Thomas. He was told of the appearance of the Risen Christ. He could not believe because his faith had not yet entered this new dimension until he had a personal encounter with the Risen Christ 8 days later.
When I was younger in my faith, I used to snigger at Doubting Thomas. I had enough knowledge, was prayerful and faithful to Sunday mass. I always thought this passage was a plain vanilla; just “do not doubt”. Until trials entered my adult life, though I was not anywhere near gold being tested by fire. I just could not connect the happenings of my daily life to my belief. My faith needed to enter a new dimension to be convinced, fashioned by personal encounters with the Risen Christ.
Which Thomas are you, the first or the second? We cannot see this virus but can see its dangerous effect. Have we surrendered to doubt and crippled ourselves with anxieties so much so that “the Risen Christ” is a teaching but not a lived experience? This is not so easy. Everyone is having a tough time. People have lost loved ones. Many lost jobs becoming financially disabled to support family. Pain is real.
This pandemic has shown our world to be deeply wounded. All peoples have never ever been more united sharing one common fight. To beat the virus, the world must act as one. Amazingly the action of each individual person is crucial. Looking deeply, it brings out what Christ has always emphasised. “You” as an individual are precious; “I have called YOU each by name”. You and I make up the one body of humanity. But our body has wounds, visible by our individual responses to the pandemic. We have perhaps shown the lack of conviction in our faith principle to love one another. Rather, from powerful world leaders to you and me, we have become somewhat self-loving.
Staying home, social distancing and wearing a mask are acts asked of an individual. Little acts that seem to greatly affect our self-opinionated selves. We look at the letters of these rules to find a way round them. If such small sacrifices are difficult, how much more difficult will it be to love the other person, a stranger, and harder, an enemy? We should not question the rules that govern us but the principles we have that shape our life. *
We salute people in the medical profession. In them you clearly see their life principles, a life they are willing to put at stake. They are not hiding behind rules or personal rights. In their training, one principle dripped into them: love life, save lives. Do we doubt our faith principle to love one another?
Our world including every person is truly the Body of Christ. As disciples we are called into action now to “see the holes that the nails made in his hands and put my finger into the holes they made” and “to put my hand into his side”. We are called into mission today to make compassion and hope tangible to the downtrodden. We are to put our hands into their wounds. We are called to be Easter people to make the Risen Christ visible. We are the people through whom his divine mercy can be expressed. In so doing, we remove the doubt of Thomas in everyone.
We have been educated in our belief, but the test is in the application We are rich in our knowledge, but knowledge is only a tool that shows us how to live by principles. Our prayers, our Sunday mass, our nightly rosaries and devotions, and our weekly bible class prepares us for a season like this. It is a season to rise and act. We have been taught how to be a disciple. This is the season to be one.
It is the season of the Acts of the Apostles. It is a season to build communities of believers to pronounce love and embrace hope. It is a season to bring faith onto a new level where joy can co-exist with suffering. It is a season to see through our doubts, the season to realise that our life’s eternal goal, that which truly matters, is beyond the reach of the virus. It is the season to enter the new dimension of our faith to encounter and experience the Risen Christ in our personal life.
We must first enter our personal desert of doubt and be alone with the Risen Christ. We can perhaps enter this desert if we allow ourselves to contemplate the small possibility that ‘I’ may not survive this virus. ‘I’ may die. What then becomes important? ‘I’ have so far placed confidence in humanity, how much confidence have ‘I’ placed in the Risen Christ?
Let us emerge from the tomb of doubt. This cloud of doubt has been necessary to release us from the grip of every worldly comfort we cling to for an answer to this pandemic. This cloud has left us alone in our desert to come face to face with Christ Risen. The reasons for doubt are because we placed our beliefs in worldly things that have fallen short of conviction. It is time to be the second Thomas and put our finger into his wound.
*Principles for a pandemic. Sr Joan Chittister. National Catholic Reporter. See ncronline.org/news/opinion/where i stand/principles
2nd Sunday of Easter