Sunday, 19 April 2020

Thomas the Cynic, 2nd Sunday of Easter

on Jn 20:19-31
Today I want to directly address the difficulty of doubt that we face amidst the suffering and difficulties the coronavirus situation is throwing at us,
and to consider how St Thomas’s doubt helps us in this regard.

In our part of the world, the Southwest, COVID19 doesn’t seem to have directly affected us yet, 
but it has HUGELY affected us INDIRECTLY, with the lockdown,
and I quite sure than more than a few of us have had this weaken our faith.

As some of you will have heard me argue before, I think that St Thomas’s doubt was precisely THIS sort of doubt: the doubt that come from seeing suffering.
People often refer to Thomas as a sceptic.  A sceptic is someone who doubts everything.
I think, however that he had become a CYNIC, not a sceptic.
A cynic is someone who believes the worst about everything.
A cynic is person with a specific type of doubt: 
He doubts the reality of goodness,
and pretty much always, he doubts goodness because he has seen evil.
And this means he is a useful example for us today.

My reason for saying Thomas was a cynic is this:
When the others said they had seen the Risen Lord, he didn't say, 
"Show me his risen body", but, like a cynic, he points to evil:
He speaks of the wounds that killed our Lord, of the experience of suffering, of what has gone wrong.

Now, Thomas wasn't always cynical.  
Earlier in the Gospels we see him expressing bravery, 
in fact, uttering one of the bravest statements in the Gospels: 
When Jesus set out for Jerusalem where He faced certain death, Thomas bravely said to the other apostles, "let us also go, that we may die with him"(Jn 11:16).

But by the start of today's gospel passage, this brave disciple seems to have changed dramatically, he had become cynical, and refused to believe.  What had happened in between?  
The Cross.  
The sight, the experience of the suffering of the Cross had shattered his faith.  
And suffering can destroy our faith too.  
We can allow an experience of evil to so overwhelm us that we no longer believe in the existence of what is good

How does our Lord respond to the cynic's doubts?
The Lord points directly to what is worst, what is evil, and says He has triumphed over it.
In response to Thomas's doubts, our Lord showed him His wounds, showed His triumph.
The same Jesus who hung before on the Cross, also appeared to show that He had faced and OVERCOME suffering.  
Thus Jesus says, "In the world you will have tribulation.  But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world"(Jn 16:33).

So, in summary, if you’re doubting now,
if you’re seeing problems and evil more than you’re seeing good,
Then, remember the image in today’s Gospel:
The triumphant Lord showing His wounds, showing how He had confronted all that is worst, and overcome it.
And as His wounds healed St Thomas’s doubts, let them heal our doubts too.

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