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Obstinate Thomas

Today is the second Sunday of Easter and the reading for today is always the same. What others call doubting Thomas.

I always maintain every year that what we see here is not doubt.

What would doubt look like?

Thomas: Ok you are telling me that this Jesus whom we saw nailed to a cross after receiving a vicious forty lashes and after carrying his Cross to which he was nailed. This Jesus who hung upon the cross until he died suddenly just wakes up in the tomb he was buried. Moves the stone and comes here to visit you because, after all he had no other place to go because he was dead in a tomb.

That is what doubt looks like.

Notice what Thomas does. He does not say he does not believe, he says he will not believe. He refuses to believe. This is different.

Let’s look at why.

Jesus does not follow Thomas’ model. He is not supposed to have been crucified and in doing so, Thomas believes that they backed the wrong horse so to speak. He left career and family to follow Jesus believing him to be the Messiah and saw within actually 18 hours all he had put his hopes in just fall apart and crumble as Jesus dies on the cross as a common criminal. It is not that Thomas does not believe, he now cannot. Jesus proved himself to be a fraud in Thomas eyes. He will not believe because his hopes have been dashed.

Now Jesus calls him to prove to him that he resurrected from the dead. Why?

This becomes one of the most powerful moments you will see.

When Jesus arrives to the apostles, he breathes on them. They receive the spirit of God and the power of God. St. John Chrysostom teaches that what he does is that he who had received the power and authority from the Father now bestows it on the apostles. The saint explains that a king can bestow on another the authority to cast someone in prison and release another. But what God bestows on the Apostles is “an authority much greater as heaven and more precious than Earth.” Thomas too will receive this power but first he must lose the obstinate of heart for the spirit cannot enter an obstinate heart.

This is a powerful lesson for us. One the great problems with a misunderstanding of Church’s teaching is that we must earn our way to Heaven so we must be good enough to get to Heaven, which I tell you is a lie. We turn from sin and avail ourselves to the sacrament of confession to open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit which cannot enter an obstinate heart. The power of the Holy Spirit is an incredible power that gives all a powerful authority. Priests and bishops have the additional power to forgive sins and bring forth the Eucharist so that you can manifest more the power the Lord gives you at baptism.

This is what Jesus does for the Apostles at Baptism, he literally bestows his authority on the Apostles but this power cannot enter a heart that is not docile to receive it. So Thomas must be confronted and repent of his obstinacy so that he may receive the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.

However, do not look just at the apostles and their power and authority: for at your baptism when you received the Holy Spirit prior to your confirmation when you received its fullness as the Apostles did at Pentecost. You became participants in the priesthood and kingship of Jesus.

I remember seeing a book in an evangelical bookstore some time ago that we have been called to live like a king’s kid. The king being God himself. That is actually incorrect. At our baptism we receive a share in Christ’s power and ministry through the action of the Holy Spirit. The more we pursue holiness the stronger our ministry becomes in the power of the Holy Spirit bestowed on us as it was bestowed on the Apostles.

This is so important because the obvious question is why did Jesus have to do this at all, why did not he not continue his ministry himself and stay here on Earth continue his mission himself.

It is for the same reason that he corrects Thomas. The hard heartedness of the people made it impossible. Remember Jesus never goes back to those who crucified him because they would have attempted to destroy him again. They were so hard hearted, he had to create a church to do his work.

This is the power bestowed on the institution of the Church and the people of the institution. WE have been empowered to carry on his mission.

What happens when we do not do that? The lost humanity creates a self destructive distopia and is incapable of creating anything else. Only when we are under the authority of Christ and fully embracing His authority are we able to bring the power and authority of the Spirit to those around us.

Therefore, what we see here is Thomas’ anger changed into Christ’s power. That same power falls upon you that you may serve Christ in your life and community. The role of the ordained is to manifest Christ to you that you may manifest Christ to others. Remember however, this is not the nice Christ who like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus this is the Christ in the power of the spirit in all his authority and power bestowed on you at your baptism that you may become signs and symbols of Christ to others.

Notice something else. Jesus does not give them instructions at this point. It is the spirit who will guide them and the same spirit who guides us. This is why we are people of prayer and why we come before the Eucharist so that we may live the dignity and gift of the spirit that Jesus gives us at Baptism.

Photo: Guercino (Public Domain)

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