Doubting Comes from Being Out of Communion

After the Risen Jesus appeared to his Apostles on Easter Sunday:

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

Incredulity of Thomas by CaravaggioBut he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” - John 20:24-29

It is fascinating to ask the question, "Why wasn't Thomas with the other ten that day of the Resurrection?" Was it that he wasn't afraid, as they were? Could it be that Thomas had decided - perhaps in his shock and grief - to separate himself from the others? After all, when the disciples were arguing if it was safe for Jesus to return to Jerusalem, it was Thomas who spoke up and said, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:16)

Could it be that his doubting was related to his being separated from the group? Could it be that our self-separating from others, especially the believing community, contributes to a weakening of our faith? It is often suggested that it is the other way around: "I began to have doubts and so I stopped going to church." Might it be that being out of communion, and the resulting loss of affection, has more to do with why we end up doubting?

What Jesus does for Thomas' separation and doubts is what he did for the other disciples' fear. He gave him his peace. Jesus' peace calms our fears and it brings us back in communion.

Then Jesus helps Thomas - and us - by putting us back in touch with the story. "Come, look at my wounds and remember." Jesus doesn't give Thomas - or us - a theology lesson for our doubts. When we are out of touch, out of communion, we tend to forget the story. We tend to no longer remember how he loved us. To remember is to be filled with gratitude and affection. When we let Jesus love us, we are no longer afraid, we know he is with us, and there are no more doubts.

And then Jesus missions us. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The Father has sent Jesus for the mission of reconciliation. With the gift of his peace and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are called to be people who forgive one another. If we don't forgive, sins don't get forgiven. So, we are called to be forgivers. We are called to the ministry of reconciliation. We are called to be communion restorers and bridge builders.

Mindful of the wounds on his risen body, we are filled with a desire for communion with Jesus and we are placed in communion with one another, sharing his ministry of reaching out to the people on the margins, to those who have separated themselves and to those who are isolated and excluded.

This is not a ministry to condemn those who are out of communion, and least of all those who have doubts. It is a ministry of comfort and inclusion. Our evangelization is a ministry which draws people to remember Jesus' wounds, to remember how much he loves us. He died and was raised to set us free from the power of sin and death. His wounds are his testimony to his reconciling love. And, by restoring us to communion, he takes away our fears and doubts. And, he sends us to carry out his ministry of bringing unity and peace to others.

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