Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Graces Found in Doubt

Doubting Thomas.  The older I grow the more I understand Thomas, the more I feel comfortable imagining that I can have him as a friend, as a teacher, as a colleague.

I listen Thomas' doubt:
 Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nail marks

and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

I think of those people, especially younger folks, who are not fearful in saying that the mysteries of faith are challenging to them.  This is especially true among all of us who live in the technological age where proof is always demanded, where mystery is accepted and just taken for granted and not always understood.  Then I think about Jesus' participation in this little one=act play that is occurring in today Gospel.

Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed

Recall the times that friends or family have made remarks that challenge our faith today.  Would I, could I be strong enough in my own faith to welcome the journey of faith that is put before me in the lives of those speaking to me.  As a priest, it is not at all unusual to have someone initiate a conversation that is so much like what Thomas said:   "I need some proof to understand what this faith is all about."  As a priest, each time I raise a circular piece of compressed bread, a host, and a cup of wine, I often remind myself that what I am doing in the act of consecration is, probably, one of the most difficult mysteries for many to accept as a spiritual transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

A very close friend of mine, a very devout man of so many years, has invited me to his home often.  Frequently I carry my Mass kit, as we call it, so that I can celebrate the Eucharist with him in his home.  Without any hesitation, when I raise the host and the chalice after saying the words of consecration, my friend, who does not have the best of hearing, whispers a prayer that he has said for years at that time:  "My Lord and my God."  This has become a prayer that I started "whispering" to myself at each consecration.  What an act of faith.  What an act of humility.

At that moment there comes a genuine sense of ultimate honor that has been entrusted to me in the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  I think of those words of Jesus to Thomas quoted above.  How blessed for me to be able to understand and accept the challenge of faith put before my friend and others like him who have heard Jesus say "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

To you who are parents or grandparents or uncles and aunts, there must be those moments when younger relatives tell you they cannot believe.  Before condemning, take a few moments to stand with Jesus as he stood before Thomas.  Your moments with those doubting Thomas relatives are indeed like Thomas.  Yours is the challenge to respond in a way that Jesus responded to Thomas.  You can do this is you yourself are able to say "My Lord and my God."