We are now on the Second Sunday of Easter and today the challenge for us is to assess our faith in the Risen Lord. We need to ask ourselves: How real and alive Christ is in our hearts?
Somebody commented on my posts on Facebook before about my way of speaking about God, about Jesus, as my friend. I said to him: ‘That’s just what he really is for me and this keeps me going. This makes me proud to be a friend of Jesus.’ He is real and alive to me as my personal friend. I can tell him everything and I can assure you, he listens most of the time. I have to admit though that there are times I doubt of this friendship. There are times that I doubt my faith in him. At times, this makes me feel bad, because I should not doubt my faith. But I can’t help it. I expect that friends are always there to support each other and as my friend, I expect more of Jesus. When I’m in a difficult situation I’d expect him to help me overcome it or even change it. As a friend, though he knows what I’m up to. I realized that God doesn’t always change the situations as I like it to be. What he does however, is he changes my attitudes towards a particular challenge or towards a certain situation. But I still have doubt at times.
And yet I thank God for making me doubt especially about my faith because doubting our faith is one way to assess if the Risen Lord is really alive in our hearts. This doesn’t mean that we doubt if there is God or not. This also doesn’t mean that we doubt if Jesus Christ is true or not. Far from it. This means however, asking ourselves: Why do I believe in God, in Jesus?
Thomas in our gospel today has offered us a couple of ways to answer this question. First, for him, he believed and even made his profession of faith in Jesus “My Lord and my God”, because Jesus was true to himself, true to his words and to his deeds. This is perhaps one motive why Thomas doubted the report of his fellow apostles about the risen Lord. He needs to see the proof. He needs to see the ‘wounds’ because only the visible marks of the wounds could convince him that this risen Jesus they are talking about is the same Jesus he was following before. He needs to see if Jesus was really true to himself when he said to them he has to die yet to rise again in three days. And his doubt was transformed into faith. Thomas is an example of a practical man with a practical faith. It is not bad. But it has a tendency to be lost or to be set aside if things turn out the way we didn’t want to be, or when our expectations are crushed. Second, Thomas came to believe in the Risen Lord because he has been given the opportunity to touch the wounds of Jesus. Seeing the wounds of Jesus shattered his illusions. He was expecting of a messiah who is so strong, powerful, not killed by anyone, etc. But touching the wounds of Jesus helped him realize that the true messiah is the one who loves unconditionally to death, who serves humbly, and the one who would rather take on mortal blows and mortal wounds just to defend his sheep from the wolves and from eternal death.
However, the Risen Lord is not only challenging the faith of Thomas by helping him face his doubts and by allowing him to touch his wounds. He is also challenging our faith now. Thus, we heard him saying in the gospel: ‘Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’ He is now telling this to us because this is about us. We are still in the rejoicing and in the celebration mode because of Easter, that momentous event in our salvation history when our doubts and despair are being transformed into an experience of salvation and a hope for our future resurrection. Yet with rejoicing comes the invitation, the challenge, the mission- the mission to go and proclaim the Good News. So, Jesus in our gospel today is sending us out with power of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim this Easter faith. We need not worry so much because he has given us power to do this. He breathed his Spirit on us. And this power of the Holy Spirit gives us courage, gives us hope and even makes us proud of our being a Christian. This is what the apostles did and experienced in the early Church. After the Pentecost they went out preaching despite the threats of death and persecutions. They couldn’t keep the beautiful and the amazing experience they had with the risen Lord, that they could only say to the authorities: “We just can’t help but tell others of the Good News we’ve got.” Also today’s first Reading gives us a glimpse of their wonderful experience. People brought their sick to the streets hoping that Peter and the other apostles would cast his shadow on them and they would be healed. This is not about working miracles. This is all about influencing others with the Gospel of Jesus. This is another challenge for us today- that we be good influence to others by touching the wounds of Christ found in our sisters and brothers. The problem is we cannot see Jesus now in person. What we can do however is to see the woundedness of Jesus in persons, in the people around us and in the situations surrounding us. And we can do this if we look at others in the eyes of faith and through the mind and heart of Jesus.
Let us always remember only with faith we can say with confidence that the risen Lord is alive and real in our hearts. Let us not forget too: Faith may not give us control over everything but it enables us to live in the midst of a tupsy-turvy world. It also enables us to be who we are and what we are capable of doing. The swimmer doesn’t have control over the sea or over the waves, but being a swimmer enables one to enjoy it or to brave it . So our faith may not guarantee us of having control over everything, but it assures us that despite everything that happens to us or around us, if we persevere to the end, overcoming doubts and uncertainties, then something great awaits us and it is worth waiting for.