Acts 4:32-35, 1 Jn 5:1-6 Jn 20:19-31
Dear friends! Once an elderly pastor looked over his large congregation on Easter morning and wished them at the end of the Mass with this announcement: ‘my friends, realizing that I will not see many of you until next Easter, may I take this opportunity to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!’ The difference in the size of the congregation on Easter Sunday and on the other Sundays of the year is very noticeable. Many of our Christians as far as church attendance is concerned, have indeed become Christmas and Easter Christians; you see a lot of new faces on these days, like a certain man who was criticizing his pastor. “I have attended this church for three years” he says “and each time the homily is always on the same topic. Doesn’t he have something else to talk about?” yes, this man has been attending the church for three years alright; but he only attends on Christmas and Easter Sundays and he always hears a homily on birth and resurrection of Christ.
Why are many well-meaning Christians so uncommitted to attending regular, Sunday church services? The answer can be given in one word: ‘doubt’ or crisis of faith. People today, like people of all times do have a hunger for God. They are in search for the meaning of life. But they doubt whether the answer to these existential questions can be found within the four walls of the church. For this reason they are more disposed to spend time in social action, in work, and in intellectual pursuit rather than in church worship.
Today’s gospel gives us an example of a man who felt exactly like that. His name is Thomas. The second Sunday of Easter always presents us with the gospel of doubting Thomas.
Thomas must have been upset with himself as well as with other disciples. He manifested such a grand heroism, ‘let us go with him that we may die with him’ when Jesus said that he is going to Jerusalem. But when Jesus was dragged off, Thomas as well as the other disciples ran away in the garden of Gethsemane: more concerned with saving his own skin than being with Jesus. When Thomas heard the stories of the resurrection of Jesus, he couldn’t bring himself to believe the other disciples. So he said, “Unless I see the holes that nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe”. When he saw Jesus and Jesus invited him to see if it were really him, Thomas immediately responded “my Lord and my God”.
Since the disciples were Jews they would attend synagogue services on the Sabbath (Saturday) and on Sunday they would assemble together as believers in Christ. Since they gather together in His name, Jesus would appear to them as he had earlier promised them: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt 18:28). In this way Sunday became known as the day of the Lord, the day Christ comes to meet and strengthen his people, the special day of Christians worship. So, today’s gospel is describing the 1st Christian worship following the resurrection of the Lord. The disciples gathered for Sunday service and what do we notice in today’s gospel? Thomas is not there. Where is Thomas? You can see that Thomas is like one of these modern day Christians who do not go to church regularly on Sundays. Such people are not there in church when Jesus comes to meet his people and to strengthen them in their faith. As a result, they remain with their doubt. Initially all the disciples had their doubts. But because of their encounter with the risen Lord in Sunday worship their doubt was turned into faith. Thomas missed that experience.
But being a wise man, Thomas resolved, never again to miss the Sunday gathering of believers. The gospel reading continues, “eight days later, (i.e. the following Sunday) the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them and Jesus came and stood among them (Jn 20:26). This time Thomas had his own share of the resurrection experience. Immediately his doubt changed into faith, he fell down and worshiped, saying, “My Lord and my God!” (v.28)
Now ask yourself, what if Thomas had stayed away from church saying, “prove it’ prove it to me that Jesus is risen and then I will come” would it be possible to prove it to him by arguments alone? Sometimes the best argument you can give to someone out there who is in doubt and does not believe, is a sentence in three words: “come and see”.
Come in and let the Risen Lord who is here with us in Sunday worship, the Lord who is here in his word and in the Eucharist, let him himself speak to you and touch your heart and then you will doubt no longer but believe. The answer to our religious questions and doubts in not out there, but is right in here. When you are in doubt, think of doubting Thomas and learn from his experiences.
“O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!”