Every year, we hear the same story on the second Sunday of Easter.
Every year, the same story. Not even different versions of it, because it only appears in one gospel: John.
Every year, we hear the story of Thomas, the one who wasn’t there when Jesus first appeared alive after the crucifixion. And when all the other disciples tell him they’ve seen Jesus, he refuses to believe. And then, the next time Jesus appears, he’s there to see for himself. It’s the origin of the expression “Doubting Thomas” to refer to someone who, well, doubts.
Every year, I try to say that I think that’s unfair because I don’t think Thomas doubts what’s truly important. I think he already knows that, though he sees that Jesus is physically dead, he’s very much alive in the hearts and minds of those who love and live as he taught. That’s why he’s not there. No, it doesn’t say that in the story: the gospel writer doesn’t give any reason why he’s not there. But, in my heart, I know that Thomas is the most certain of all the disciples and I think he wasn’t there because he’s out sharing Jesus with everyone he can. He’s not afraid. Nor is he afraid to question the other disciples on what they have seen.
Every year, I say that the real gift of this story is that Thomas believed that Jesus was alive in himself. He already believed without being able to see what the disciples did. And when Jesus says “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29), I think Jesus doesn’t mean to criticize Thomas’s doubt, but to honour his belief and the belief of all who will come after, even you and me.
Every year, I say that questions affirm and inspire our faith, doubt is essential so that we ask those questions and it’s not the certainty of finding answers, but the journey with the questions that’s important.
Every year, I try to find new and different ways to say that. Every year.
This year’s different.
Perhaps there’s no need to find a new way to say it. The world’s different. Our view is different. Maybe, in this instance, we don’t need something new.
Maybe we just need to be reminded that questions are okay. That doubt’s okay. Maybe now is when we most need to remember that true faith embraces questions and doesn’t look for certainty, but rather company. When we share our doubts and questions, we might find others on a similar journey willing to share their own doubts and questions. And thoughts. Not to tell us what or how to think, but to help us find some fulfillment or, at least, contentment for ourselves.
Maybe right now is when we need to remember that true faith isn’t about finding answers, it’s about finding hope.