Today is the Feast Day of “St. Thomas the Apostle” and each year, just four days before Christmas, it is meant to remind followers in the church about the importance of faith. The collect for the day invokes our need this way:
Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Of all the lovely prayers in the Episcopal liturgy, today’s collect is definitely not my favorite. Any human with half a brain who prays for a belief that is “perfect and without doubt” knows that it is a petition akin to praying to Santa for the ability to fly… and then go into a coma.
For to have a faith without any doubt is 1 – not humanly possible (at least for those humans that would prefer to rise above robot status); and 2 – a recipe for stagnation. After all, once a human “achieves” such “perfect belief” status, how can there room for further growth?
I have never been comfortable with the idea that being a “doubting Thomas” is a bad thing. (It is probably the “raging agnostic” trial lawyer in me.) Sometimes, it’s good to be a little skeptical, especially if the news is “too good to be true.” And that was certainly the case with Thomas after being told the “goodest” of all good news that humankind has ever been told, that “The Lord is risen!” (Jn. 20::19-29)
Thomas understood the benefits of healthy skepticism when he made his proclamation to his fellow disciples that he would not (perhaps he could not) believe in such a grand thing. The disciples had shared that his friend and teacher Jesus, who a day earlier hung dead as a door-stop on a Roman cross, had just popped in for a quick visit with them as they cowered behind closed doors “in fear of the Jews.” We don’t know where exactly Thomas was when Jesus first appeared, but he was not there hiding out with them, afraid, behind locked doors.
Jesus understood Thomas’ reluctance too, I think, and that his hesitation may not have been based on the fear that his disciple brothers were playing some sadistic practical joke. Rather, Jesus could fully comprehend that Thomas’ fear about this incredible story was that it was in fact real and true.
And if true, it was the ultimate of all Reality and it would change EVERYTHING!
Maybe that is why Jesus was so compassionate when he reappeared to the disciples a week later. This time, Thomas was present. Far firm admonishing this deep thinker, Jesus simply beckoned Thomas to reach out his hands and touch his wounds.
During this Christmastide, on this darkest day of the year, could it be that Jesus beckons still? And that the invitation to Thomas is our invitation too? And that the path to having a faith “that is never found wanting” may start by touching the wounds of this world, and of those around us, and by acknowledging and attending to our own wounds?
And in so doing, believing that somehow we are touching the Son of God?