Did you know that Thomas the Apostle was a twin? Today’s Gospel (John 20:19-31) goes out of its way to point this out. Who is Thomas’ twin? You and I are Thomas’ twin because we are a mixture of faith and doubt, trust and pessimism, belief and unbelief. This is a difficult place to be.
Every one of us is searching for certainty in our life. We want to be sure. We want to feel secure. Does it shock us when we hear that Mother Teresa, one of the greatest saints in modern times was also one of the greatest doubters of modern times? In her diary published after her death, she says that she was constantly plagued by doubts about God: Did God exist? Does God care?
You and I are desperately searching for signs, signs so that we can feel certain about our beliefs. People are looking to tree trunks, cinnamon buns and clouds in the sky for the face of Jesus or Mary. People flock to statues that cry or bleed. People want to talk about rosaries that turn to a golden color. It sure seems that these things happen.
Wouldn’t it be great to have an unmistakable sign that there definitely is a God? Wouldn’t it be nice to know for certain that everything is going to turn out well in the end? That all the Bernie Madoff’s of the world are going to get their comeuppance? That all the good people, who try so hard to do the right thing and live according to the Ten Commandments and go to church, will in the end be rewarded? Hasn’t this coronavirus pandemic caused us to wonder?
I think a lot of us could be put up with the pain, the suffering and the grief of our lives, if we knew for certain that it would all turn out right, especially with this pandemic.
When does the doubt become most severe? Obviously in tragic times when we talk to God and say, “Lord, I go to church every Sunday….How could you let my daughter die?” “Lord, I keep the commandments and I say my prayers…..How could you let my spouse walk out of me?” “Lord, I live a decent life and I do my best to help the poor and the needy…..How could you let me get so sick?”
That’s where the real doubt comes in – “After I’ve done everything for you, God, you turn around and do this to me! ”You and I are always looking for certainty. But the fact is – In matters of faith, we never get the certainty that we want. If we did, we would not need faith. We would not rely on science. So without that certainty, we become Thomas’ twin.
Today’s Gospel of John gives us some hints for dealing with our uncertainty and our doubts. Whenever John uses the word “see”, he knows there are two meanings for the word. You can “see” with your eyes and you can understand or believe with your mind and heart – “Oh, I see!…I understand….I believe!”
John knows that some people live on a physical level – What can they feel or see or touch? John also knows that some people live on a spiritual level. And this spiritual seeing, understanding and believing is what John is trying to get at.
That is why Jesus says, “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.” Jesus is saying that there is a big difference between seeing with your eyes and believing.
When Thomas finally says, “My Lord and my God,” he no longer sees with his eyes, he now sees the faith in his heart.
Forty-eight years ago a little girl named Heidi who was not even two years old played games with me all afternoon. The next day she and her family left for International Falls in upper Minnesota. Two days later I got a call from her parents that Heidi had drowned in a foot and a half of water just off the shore of the lake with her family nearby. I cried on the planes all the way up to International Falls. “Why God? Why? How could you allow a beautiful little girl who was so precious to me and to many others die like this?”
I still don’t know why. I never will. Forty-eight years have gone by. Not only have I gotten physically older, I have gotten spiritually older and spiritually closer to my next life – the next life where Heidi has been living for all these years. If I only saw my life and the life I have lived with the two eyes in my head, it hardly would have been a life worth living. I’ve had to deal with many losses and failures, cancer, an open heart surgery and the deaths of loved ones.
At seventy-six years of age, I’m still a mixture of faith and doubt, trust and pessimism, belief and unbelief. If I had given into my doubts, my pessimism and my unbelief’s, I might well have left the priesthood and stopped going to church. I know priests who have done just that. Or I could have stayed and become a hollow man – just going through the motions.
What Thomas, my twin, did was come back to the faith and the Church, and grow in his faith. I and many others have tried to do the same.
There was once a blind young woman who hated herself because she was blind. She hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She told her boyfriend: “If I could only see the world, I would marry you.”
One day someone donated a pair of eyes to her. When the bandages came off, she was able to see everything, including her boyfriend. He asked her: “Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?”
The girl looked at the boyfriend and saw that he was blind. The sight of his closed eyelids shocked her. She had not expected that. The thought of looking at his closed eyelids for the rest of her life led her to refuse to marry her. Her boyfriend left in tears.
A couple of days later he wrote her a note that said: “Take good care of your eyes, my dear, because before they were yours, they were mine.” The young woman finally got new physical eyes with which to see, but she was blinder than ever spiritually and in her heart.
Her boyfriend in giving her his own eyes did what Jesus did on the cross – He gave his life and his sight for her. He saw life as Jesus sees life – with the eyes of the heart!
Are you a person of faith or doubt, trust or pessimism, belief or unbelief?
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