Like the disciples in today’s Gospel, we too are forced to stay in our houses with the “locked doors” during this time of pandemic. Despite the sad situation we are going through, we continue to celebrate Easter, the Resurrection, and the Lord wants to come to us. Who can stop him? In the Gospel we can read that, though the doors of the house where the disciples hid themselves were locked, Jesus came in their midst and said to them: “Peace be with you!” The same Jesus who died and is alive, who appeared in the midst of his disciples, wants to come to our houses too – even if the doors of our houses are still “locked”…
The apostle Thomas still had in his mind the image of Jesus dead on the cross. Surely his heart was filled with dread, mourning, despair, disappointment. “We have seen the Lord,” said the other disciples. For Thomas, the negative experience he had over those days was much stronger than the words of others. Thomas could be said to be the rationalist, the sceptic among the apostles. He cannot believe so easily, but asks for proof. Perhaps this is why the apostle Thomas appeals to people today, because modern man is also often critical or even sceptical. Thomas doesn’t want to be gullible: it is better to doubt with sincerity than simply to believe because of tradition, continuity, custom, folklore or even superstition. Nor is it constructive to believe just because someone asks or demands that you do. Before “swallowing” the content of a doctrine of faith it’s best to “chew” it first, because eating without chewing causes indigestion or even constipation (an image I like using when speaking about ideological thinking, fanaticism, fundamentalism, radicalism and extremism). I know, it is very important to listen to other people and to hear about the experiences that they have had. However, faith must, in the end, be a personal, free and conscious decision. You cannot delegate the authority of your own conscience to others, and no one is allowed to rule over others’ conscience, trying to control and manipulate it. An authentic exercise of humility and justice is also to respect the right of each person to have different opinions from mine and to fight so the other has the right not to agree with me. Conscience is a manifestation of the great human dignity that God offers to each person, and the last instance through which God speaks to me. Conscience is at the same time that critical filter that allows me to personalise and assimilate a certain truth accepted in faith.
I personally believe that faith has a “twin sister” – which is doubt. Whoever truly believes also truly doubts. Furthermore, a certain dose of doubt could make us a little more humble, and so protect us against the presumption of having a monopoly on the truth, which on many occasions leads to ideological thinking, fanaticism, fundamentalism, radicalism and extremism. A big problem of our time!
We should bear in mind that being able to believe is never obvious, and we cannot take it for granted. Regarding supernatural realities, we do not yet live in the world of evidence but of faith, and this leaves a lot of room for doubt. The beautiful prayer that the father of the demon-possessed epileptic made before Jesus comes to my mind: “I have faith. Help my lack of faith!” (Mark 9.24)
Thomas is not an actor who tries to make himself interesting, to put himself in the light and show others that he is a cool guy. He is one who sincerely and humbly wants to be able to believe, and is looking for answers. However, there are answers only where there are also questions, where one continues to search for the truth.
It is interesting to note a little detail of today’s Gospel: namely that Thomas, despite his doubts, doesn’t leave the circle of the apostles. He strives to remain in communion with them; and the other apostles don’t exclude him because he has these doubts. Perhaps this can help us understand that in the Church there is also a place for those who still doubt and seek. We cannot exclude a member just because in certain situations they have difficulty accepting some rules or believing in certain contents of faith.
People like Thomas are so important to Jesus that he himself comes to meet them: not in private but in the community. And he says not only to Thomas but to everyone: “Peace be with you!”