In discussing faith with non-believers, I have heard three common objections to Christianity:
The third objection is sometimes expressed as a stinging question: How can you expect me to believe in Christ, when I see so many mean-spirited Christians?
Thomas, known popularly as “Doubting Thomas,” himself faced these obstacles to faith. When the other apostles told him they had seen the Lord, he demanded evidence. He was following the time honored principle: If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
This week I got a call offering me 15% off my monthly phone bill. I did not even listen to the sales pitch. “Thank you,” I said, “I’m OK with what I have now.”
Thomas acted better than I. With further evidence he was willing to reconsider. Of course, something much greater was at stake. Amazingly people can be brought up hearing the claims of Christ and never seriously examine them. Well, it does take less effort to say, “It’s all just wishful thinking.”
Thomas doubted, but at some point he must have doubted his own doubts: Maybe those guys are not as unhinged as I originally judged. What really is the evidence I require? It does not make sense Jesus would appear to them and not me, but perhaps God has ways of doing things that are not immediately apparent.
At any rate, Thomas did rejoin them on the eighth day. It may have required swallowing some pride. Or perhaps he nursed a secret superiority. Whatever Thomas felt, it was swept aside in a blinding moment of grace. “Peace be with you.” Jesus offered the physical evidence, but the Gospel gives no indication Thomas needed to examine it. Rather he made the greatest profession of faith we find in the Gospels:
Now you might say, “If I were presented with that kind of evidence, I would do the same.” Yes, but things are not so simple. In today’s second reading, John (himself a witness to the Risen Lord) says,
Faith in Jesus’ resurrection does not take away all forms of anxiety. Troubles from without and troubles from within. Still, along with distress, John shares with us “the kingdom and endurance.” That’s a good note to conclude this Sunday’s homily. So much energy goes into Lent – and especially Holy Week, one can feel a let down as we begin the Easter season. The race does not belong to the swift - it belongs to the persistent.
Or as George W. Bush said, speaking during Perseverance Month, “You gotta preserve." Even if we make blunders, often much greater than a presidential slip of the tongue, what counts is picking up again. Whether you preserve or persevere, the key word is patient endurance.
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