So close to the heart of oil rich Alberta, it is hard to identify with the experience of the early church, their dependence on one another for all things monetary, cultural and spiritual. Most of us are pretty self-sufficient -we can look after ourselves. A community that pools their resources (as the book of Acts says the Apostles do), and promises to protect members from poverty and persecution, as the first Christians did, is a difficult sell these days. And for me it all begs the question, has Christianity (what Jesus taught) become irrelevant?
Well it just so happens that the gospel of John, written from the experience of believers almost 2000 years ago wrestles with these same questions. The query, why Jesus Christ, why this, and why me is at the heart of St. Thomas’ want to touch the wounds of a crucified and risen Messiah; and I emphasis the first part of that, a crucified Messiah. Because for Jews of the ancient world, those who witnessed Christ’s death and resurrection, doubt persisted. They doubted not that a Messiah could be raised, but that a Messiah would be crucified. In other words, they questioned the logic of a God who would stoop to human frailty and be victim to the very world He created. This is a scandal to the Hebrew people – to many an insult. But, in this sort of God, a God on fire with love and integrity, Thomas believes.
Hardly doubt Thomas’s want to touch the wounds of the risen is one believer’s statement that Love, and any Being who claims to love, would indeed give of him/her self fully and completely to the well-being of a beloved. Thomas is confident that a real Messiah would walk the talk, even if, by doing so, Jesus challenges he (a believer) to do the same.
During a winter journey with St. Francis, Brother Leo reflected on the wonderful work the Franciscans were doing and boasted: Is this not perfect joy? Drenched and cold, St. Francis responded: "Brother, if you were to please God by giving the world a great example of holiness and teaching. If you were to perform miracles, chase away demons, heal ills, and raise the dead, this would not be perfect joy."
And "Brother, if you knew all languages, were versed in all science, could
tongues, and were acquainted with the qualities of all creatures, and dare
hungry; if, we knock and the porter is rude, asks us who we are even
after we have told him, does not believe our story; If he refuses to open
the door, leaves us in the cold and hungry, beats us and drives us away
Friends of Christ, there is cause to doubt -at least uncertainty can be owned. I have good reason to ask why Jesus Christ, why us, and why me - the truth can hurt. It was difficult for the first disciples to accept that theirs was a God who walked the talk –It might be difficult for us. But if faith so compels, might we overcome ourselves to discover the integrity of our Messiah’s commitment, the resolve of God’s love and forgiveness. With hope in the crucified and risen, dare all who believe find perfect joy. Happy Easter!