But what we fail to see in each example of their failures is how heroic each one actually is–at least to start. Peter cuts off the high priest’s servant’s ear and then dares to follow Jesus all the way to the high priest’s courtyard where he ultimately denies even knowing Jesus three times. Imagine the pressure of getting all the way there and then getting found out. If I were Peter I’d be nowhere near the courtyard.
Then there’s Thomas, who is not in the upper room when Jesus appears. Why is Thomas not trembling and afraid with the others? He left the room for some reason–a reason not mentioned by the Gospel writer of John. I often imagine him saying “Oh the heck with this. I need to get out of this room and DO something.” In their darkest hour, Thomas is the only one to unlock from depression and move on—and there is something admirable about that. He probably was risking his life to get outside of those doors.
I often think that Thomas is a lot like us. We who value science and empirical proofs for everything. We who want a tangible proof of everything in order for us to trust it. We want proof of life after death and even in the church we require some tangible proof of miracles before we declare someone a saint or even before we beatify someone as we do with John Paul II this day. His first miracle, a woman who prayed to him with Parkinson’s Disease was somehow cured. Tangible proof that JPII is interceding for her.
How often do we say, “If God is real than where is he in tragic moments?” “If God blesses us than what about those poor people in Alabama today?” “I want some proof that God indeed loves us and exists.”
Otherwise many tend to think that God is simply not around.
But faith is the courage to leave the upper room. To head out into the world and to continue to believe despite the tragedy. To believe that God can defeat death even though we haven’t seen it for ourselves. Can we believe that God can redeem all that is wrong with our world even if we don’t see that in the here and now? That’s the faith that Thomas nearly has–he walks out confidently into the world but then fails to truly believe that it can be possible. Jesus couldn’t possibly defeat death and he wants that proof that we all want. To see the wounds and to probe them himself.
The words that Jesus utters at the end of the gospel are directed to each one of us. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Can we take two lessons from today’s gospel? Can we dare to leave our upper room, to move beyond our fears that we might be denigrated for believing in Jesus? And then can we learn from Thomas’ mistakes? When the world doesn’t give us proof of God can we continue to believe anyway? When children die too young. When our parents and loved ones are taken from us. When natural disasters hit and when atrocities happen….
When we doubt that the resurrection even occurred and are too mired in our own grief and remorse—can we hold onto God for dear life or do we throw it all to the wind?
Can we dare to leave the upper room in our trembling and continue to believe without seeing?
That’s faith. And it takes much courage.
It just might make you a saint.