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                                                                            June 2019

A extract from the Annual Parochial Church Meeting

It’s easy to make the mistake that believing was easier for those who saw Jesus than it is for us today in 2019. The Gospels show us that there were many people who saw Jesus and yet didn’t come to have faith in him. Seeing is not necessarily, believing. The act of faith involves a decision to believe. In fact, the gospel shows that even the apostles had their problems believing. Thomas wasn’t the only apostle to doubt the resurrection. All of them did in turn. St. Mark tells us that when Jesus appeared to them on that Easter evening, ‘he reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had refused to believe those who saw him after he had risen.

 So we can sympathise with the apostles, because the crucifixion dealt them with a devastating blow, they had invested an enormous amount in Jesus. They had given up their jobs, and left everything to follow him. And suddenly he was gone. The more the reality of his death came home to them, the greater their loss appeared. The value and meaning of everything was threatened; their comradeship, their faith, their whole lives. And then the incredible happened – he was once more in their midst. The first thing he did was to show them his wounds. But Why? - Its amazing the people who want to show you their scars after their operation. Jesus showed the scars, firstly, because those wounds helped to identify him as the one who was crucified. And secondly, those wounds were the proof of his love for them. Love is proved by deeds.

 Then he invited them to ‘see and to touch’. Thomas was refreshing honesty. He made no attempt to hide his doubts. Doubt is often looked on as a sign of weakness & we tend to feel guilty about having doubts. But doubts can be a growing point, a stepping stone to a deeper understanding. It certainly was for Thomas, because he went on to give expression to the highest statement of faith in Jesus in the entire Gospel of S. John: when he said those words ‘My Lord and my God’. Those words are uttered by the priest as he holds up the Host at mass, when he shows you the consecrated bread he says to himself ‘My Lord and my God’.

Here on earth there is no such thing as absolute certainty about spiritual things. If there was, then faith would not be necessary. Every community could do with a character such as Thomas, that is, someone who has the courage to ask the questions no one else dares ask. Such people are truthful, and they help to keep the others truthful too. Having overcome his crisis of faith, Thomas went on to bear courageous witness to Jesus, and became one of the greatest missionaries of the early church. According to tradition he brought the gospel to Persia, Syria and India, where he was martyred. Thomas was the first of the apostles to die for his faith.

 Jesus invites us to draw close to him in faith and to look at his wounds, spiritually. And we too are called to bear witness to others just like the first apostles. Our task is to make Christ ‘visible’ in the world, in our community. That is the way it was with the first disciples. Once they had seen Christ, they felt compelled to make him known to others.

Our community has doubters and unbelievers and the only way that they will be converted to belief is if they can see Jesus and touch him in his followers. But if his followers have no wounds of love to show them, the unbelievers are not likely to be convinced. .

There are ups and downs, joys & sorrows but we learn through these moments. Like Thomas through those doubts & fears, come joy and love.