Today is the feast of St Thomas, the apostle. He is popularly dubbed as the ‘doubting Thomas’ because of his unbelief in the appearance of the Risen Christ. We can only hear record of his life as a disciple of Jesus though from John’s gospel. One is when Jesus made the decision to go and ‘wake’ Lazarus up from his ‘sleep’ [i.e. death] in Bethany but to get there they had to go through Judea. To stop him, Jesus’ disciples tried to remind him of the danger of being put to death when he would still go. Yet, He was determined to go no matter what. And it is here that we first heard Thomas saying rightly and quite confidently: ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ Another instance is when Jesus told his disciples that he is going ahead of them to his Father’s house and prepare rooms for them there: ‘You know the way to the place where I am going,’ he said. Thomas again, with such practical mindset asked him: ‘ Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ The other instance we can hear of him is in our gospel today. When He was told by his fellow disciples that they saw the risen Lord, he wouldn’t believe in them unless he can touch Jesus’ wounds and his side. He is indeed a very practical man. He seems to have characterised the modern person, who would live on the principle ‘to see is to believe.’
Doubting our faith is not in itself a bad thing. In fact, doubt and faith should be existing in us together. Without doubt, our faith might just lead us to obey blindly, and that has a significant implication in the exercise of our freedom and freewill. However, it has to be put into a right balance. There should be a ‘healthy tension’ between doubt and faith. If we doubt our faith this means that we want to understand it all the more. And the more we dig deeper in our faith, the more we grow into a real, personal and more intimate relationship with our Lord. If we doubt our faith, the more we will be motivated to embrace that greatness of our God that can only be seen quite clearly in and through faith.
How can we put doubt and faith into right balance? How can establish the healthy tension between doubt and faith?
St Thomas would offer us two ways here.
First is to stay with Jesus. Stay with God, rather than turning away from God. We can see and hear people all around us, in every corner of the world who have doubts in their faith, but never stayed with the Lord. Instead, they went away. Many neglected their faith. Many have taken for granted their faith. And even many have left the faith. They should have stayed with Jesus, because he is the surest way to affirm our faith. Only Jesus can make us see the real object of our faith who is God himself and our communion with him in the next life to come. So let’s stay with him.
The Second thing that St Thomas shows us in his life regarding putting faith and doubt into a right balance is by ‘touching’ the wounds of Jesus. Certainly, unlike St Thomas we could no longer touch the wounds of Jesus himself and of his pierced side now [considering that he had walked on this earth personally for over two thousand years already], yet we can see many ‘wounded images of Jesus’ in our immediate surroundings. There are people suffering around us. There are people who have been unjustly treated around us. There are people who are wounded in many ways around us. These are the ‘wounds’ of Jesus on which he is now inviting us to touch and to tend to.
So as we continue our celebration of the feast of St Thomas, let’s thank him for his courage of expressing his doubts in his faith because that led him to his firm and sure belief that Jesus indeed is his ‘Lord and God.’ At the same time let’s also pray that like St Thomas we may grow in our faith by touching ‘the wounds’ of Jesus experienced by many if not all of us in our day and age. Amen.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a cab driver from the train station to the seminary in Melbourne. He opened up the conversation by asking what am I doing in Melbourne. I said “ I am studying to be a Catholic priest.” He was surprised and shocked. He never thought and never heard that Catholic Priest has to study to become one. He said, in his religion, they don’t have to study because for them religion is more of a feeling thing. He then revealed to me later that he belongs to a Sikh religion. We had a good talk about things, about faith, his faith and my faith within that short 15 minute-ride to my destination. But then he said something that really struck me. He said, he believes in God, and he’s sorry for those who don’t believe in God at all. He continued to say that he’s been driving a taxi for 4 years already. He said driving a taxi is a hard job since he has to queue and wait for passengers and only get very little income out of it, plus he has to pay the operator. But he declared he’s not worried much about the money, because He believes that God provides him everyday.
Friends, sometimes in life we think that money can assure us of everything. We dream sometimes if we’ve got enough money or more, we would do this charitable work, or go there, or do this and that. We tend to think, money can buy everything including happiness. We tend to believe that with money, we can make the world go round. We sometimes think all that we need is money and the rest will follow.
But our human experience attests and tells us that money is really not the ultimate end and the motive of everything that we do and aspire to. If we’ve got money, been to a wonderful holiday, been to the places that we dream to be in, and so on, then we come back home, we still realise that there is something more, something deeper that we want, that we need, that we seek for. We crave for something that no money can buy.
Friends, this is God. Our Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that God has written something in the innermost part of our heart- that is “longing for him.” That’s why no amount of worldly wealth or treasures can satisfy this longing, but God. St. Augustine has made this wonderful realization. After years of life in sin, of sexual promiscuity, of going astray, of living life in debauchery, he was graced and had undergone a complete transformation and declared, “My heart is restless, until it rests in God.” Then we know the rest of the story. Augustine lived the rest of his life in service and in love of God.
If St Paul were to speak to St Augustine and the cab driver today, he would have affirmed them saying as in our First Reading today, “Your interests are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit has made his home in you.”
I didn’t ask the cab driver what kind of God he believes in, but I can surmise, our Only One and True God is the one who makes him contented of his life and of what he does.
However, we are not just to wait for God to do something for us. We have to do our share. It is rather not with the attitude of a [good work = reward or bad thing= punishment]. But the attitude of dependence, trust in God- a child-like attitude- trusting that a child of God, He already knows what we need and what’s good for us. Just trust in him.
Sometimes in life, we feel that the world have tumbled over us, that we lose hope, no light, distressed, discouraged, depressed, disappointed, and more so we feel like we are being abandoned by God. Our gospel today would tell us that yes, these are normal human feelings and experience, but we would really be enslaved by these negativities, if we think and try to console ourselves, that we can do everything on our own. No…If we can’t do anything on our own without God’s help in some way, we could not also try to solve all our problems on our own. This is why Jesus invites us in our gospel today, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…”
Money is not the real God, so it can only give false hope, false rest, transient happiness, temporary contentment. The God in Jesus is the One true God, and He is the only one who can provide us with everlasting happiness, real rest and lasting contentment.
So as we continue our celebration today, let’s reflect on who really God is in our lives. Is our attitude towards money helping us to enhance our relationship with our God, or is it driving us away from the true God?