Why Did Doubting Thomas Hang Around?

It had never occurred to me before, not until Father John asked the rhetorical question during his homily during Mass on Sunday.

“Why did Thomas stick with the disciples for a whole week, after Easter Sunday? He must have thought, ‘These guys are crazy! Believing they’ve seen the Lord? That’s just nuts!’ And yet he was with them a week later, when Christ appeared again.”

I had never thought of that before. Why did Thomas hang around?

Scripture doesn’t tell us. It is interesting to meditate on, though.

Thomas, when confronted with the news from the other ten disciples, that they had seen Jesus, wasn’t merely incredulous. He didn’t say “I’ll see it when I believe it.” He was so incredulous and so mistrustful, he made a bold-ass proclamation. He bypassed double-dog and triple-dog dares, going straight to that ultra rare ‘I quadruple-dog dare you’ territory.

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (Jn 20:25)

That’s putting in all on the line.

Here’s a guy whose closest friends, to a man, told him that Jesus had come to them. Men with whom he had spent the past three years following Christ. Yet despite their friendships, he doubted their testimonies. I kinda understand why he was incredulous. They had all been mourning Jesus’ death for three days, inconsolable and despairing. Why Thomas had left the room, and where he went, is irrelevant. But during his absence, they had gone from grief to unexplainable joy. Claiming to see the Lord. To be honest, I’d be doubtful too.

You imagined it, he probably told them. No, no – He spoke to us. Breathed on us!

You are all insane with grief, he might have countered. Remember when He taught, blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be filled with joy? Well??

You are possessed by demons, Thomas may have accused. Demoniacs are not joyful!

You are drunk! Besotted with too much wine! We have no wine! We have seen the Lord!

It’s conceivable that Mary Magdalene also tried to convince him. Her testimony would have fallen on deaf ears and a hard heart.

Or maybe a wary heart. A weary heart. Thomas may have been guarding himself against the hope of all hopes, that if he allowed himself to believe, only to be proven right, that the disciples had been mistaken…fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Whatever Thomas may have said, and whatever the other disciples had told him – doesn’t seem to have mattered. As far as we know, he was as firm in his stubborn denial as they were in their extraordinary joy. Thomas could have said, ‘we just have to agree to disagree.’ But no – he made an oath, a detailed set of conditions that needed to be met, without which he would not believe.

Was there tension in the room from then on? Perhaps his pride had been wounded, that Jesus appeared to the others when he was absent. Did he separate himself from the others, perhaps spending more time out and about Jerusalem? I wonder if he felt that he didn’t belong, the odd man out, not part of the club because he couldn’t share in the others’ joy.

Which leads to that question – why did he stay? He hung out with guys he thought were delusional, or crazy, for a full week. It couldn’t have been comfortable.

I have two theories – both might be wrong. I concede that. This isn’t Church teaching – just the result of some meditation, and perhaps just a dash of inspiration. But here goes.

A part of me believes he wanted to prove the others wrong. I can picture Thomas thinking – No one comes back from the dead, the others are insane – and if I don’t prove to them that they’re wrong, they’ll live the rest of their lives professing this stupid claim that Jesus is alive and get in all sorts of trouble. Once they see I’m right, they’ll realize how foolish they had been.

That makes some sense, right? Stubborn, doubting Thomas – fits the narrative. But then, when Christ appears that second time, and speaks to Thomas – Thomas realizes that his doubts were completely unfounded, and his faith was weak. Stubbornness melts away.

But I think that narrative lacks something. Something dynamic, something…tangible. A greater part of me believes there was more to this than Thomas’ doubt and his interactions with the disciples. There was still an ember of faith glowing within his soul, faint and frail. But what was it that kept it burning?

I think Thomas went to Mary. I picture him approaching her, falling to his knees, and asking “Is it true? Is Jesus alive? Dare I believe?” He knew she would neither deceive nor mislead him.

Mary then merely nodded, smiled in the way that only a mother can, to comfort a confused and unsure child, placed her hand on his cheek, and said “Have faith, Thomas, and you will see.”

He stayed because he believed her, and her intercession strengthened his faith despite his doubts, ultimately leading him to say “My Lord and My God!”

Image in Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

(originally posted 4/12/15)

Posted in Bible, Easter, Jesus, Scripture, Thoughts | 5 Comments

God Drops, Loses Ganymede While Juggling Jupiter’s Moons Last Night

(AoftheANews) – THE HEAVENS – God, Creator of All That Is Visible and Invisible, admitted to AoftheA News this morning that he accidentally lost Ganymede while juggling Jupiter’s moons last night.

“I’ve been juggling as a hobby for millennia now,” the Maker of Heaven and Earth told AoftheA News. “It’s incredibly relaxing after a long, stressful day on the Judgment Seat. Still, I probably shouldn’t have attempted juggling Jupiter’s 16 moons at once.”

NASA and amateur star-gazers discovered this morning that Ganymede was missing.

“Yeah, I’m a little embarrassed. Was hoping no one would have noticed before I could find it and put it back,” God the Almighty Father said. “I lost concentration for just a second when some believer prayed for something or other. I dropped it, and it rolled under the Andromeda Galaxy. It’s probably all the way back in the corner, too. And it’s such a tight squeeze, I can’t reach it.  I’ll send in a legion of angels later to roll it out.”

The Unmoved Mover assured AoftheA News that he’ll juggle moons in a different solar system from now on. “I got lucky this time. Ganymede easily could have collided with Earth and wiped out the entire planet, kinda like that time with the dinosaurs…”

Image via Wikimedia

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If it’s Holy Thursday, it Must Be Time to Discuss Foot Washing

If it’s Holy Thursday, and it’s St Blog’s Parish, then it’s time to bring up the foot washing foofaraw.

I know Pope Francis modified the rubrics in 2016, and that the USCCB has officially updated them and followed suit, and that it’s small “t” tradition and not big “T” Tradition, but I remain of the opinion that if we’re going to commemorate the Last Supper, then let’s commemorate what actually happened at the Last Supper.

The foot-washing ritual being restricted to men wasn’t broken, it wasn’t “exclusive”, it wasn’t a sign of oppressive patriarchy. It was Christ’s command to the apostles that they must serve one another and the entire Church as priests. Remember, at the Last Supper, not only did Christ institute the Sacrament of the Eucharist, but also the Sacrament of Holy Orders. As the One High Priest, Christ demonstrated to the apostles what they must do for others. The apostles represented the priesthood, while simultaneously representing entirety of the people of God. They represent the whole of the Church. The whole Church, made up of men and women.

In my opinion, changing the rubrics from “The men who have been chosen are led…” to “Those who have been chosen from among the people of God are led…” opens the door to greater confusion and division. You may disagree with me, and that’s fine. I’m just a guy with a blog who cares about traditional things. Even those small “t” traditions, like the foot washing ritual. Which is optional.

Optional or not, there’s a bigger issue to consider, beyond that of appearing inclusive and open-minded. One of the methods progressives and those opposed to traditional Church teaching to change the big “T” traditions is by weakening or diluting the small “t” traditions. We only need to look at how some bishops have modified the traditional teaching that those who have divorced and remarried cannot receive Holy Communion as proof of that (thank you chapter 8 and footnote 351 of Amoris Laetitia).*

Need more direct evidence? Here’s a piece that appeared in Scroll.in this morning:

Feet-washing ritual: Women step forward after two Kerala churches refuse to follow Pope Francis

[…]

After a year of deliberations, Mar George Cardinal Alanchery, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, issued a circular:

 “The papal decree is against the traditions followed by the Eastern Churches,” it read. “The decree is applicable only to the Roman Missal. Thus, the change does not concern the liturgical practices of the Eastern churches.”

Responding with concern to this news report, on March 31, 2017, the Indian Christian Women’s Movement, a network organisation of over 500 women from different Christian denominations, sent out letters to heads of the three churches in India – Roman Catholic, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara – urging them to issue directives to all parishes of their respective denominations to include women and girls in the washing of feet ritual on Maundy Thursday. But the response to this letter has been lukewarm.

It is against this background that the celebration of the ritual of washing of the feet organised by a group, Women’s Lives Matter, gains significance. In keeping with the new directions which Pope Francis has set, the group celebrated the feet washing ceremony with the inmates of Swanthanam Centre for battered Women and children at Kottayam in Kerala on April 11, two days prior to the day marked for the celebrations.

[…]

In retaliation to the regressive position held by the Syro-Malabar church, yet another ceremony is being held at Kochi by the Open Church Movement where exclusively women’s feet will be washed at a public event to be held at the IMA Hall, near Maharaja’s College Grounds. A statement issued by this group described as “sad” the stance by Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal George Alencherry that women need not be included among those whose feet are washed during the Maundy Thursday ceremonies.

There are clear signs of winds of change blowing within the tradition-bound Catholic churches in India. These acts of assertion have paved the way for organising such symbolic rituals in other institutions such as homes for the terminally ill, physically and mentally challenged, homes for unwed mothers, convicts in prisons. The possibilities are enormous, if only there are progressive Christian groups are willing to take on the challenge. These will help to take the message of inclusion to those who are in most need of the healing touch of Christ in the true spirit of the ritual of washing of the feet which will be celebrated today.

If you’re using the words “retaliation”, “regressive position”, and “tradition-bound”, me thinks you have deeper biases than just feelings of being excluded. Is the archbishop “refusing to follow” Pope Francis? Of course not – he’s exercising his office as he is obliged to do. The new wording doesn’t say “men and women”; it merely says “those who have been chosen…”, and the archbishop has told his priests, choose men. Just as Jesus did. That people are stomping their unwashed feet indicates to me that they would rather be Protestant than Catholic, given they’re the ones protesting, and not the archbishop.

In any case, I’m not opposed to people washing other people’s feet, and I’m pretty certain the Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church isn’t either. Go for it, knock your socks off – wash whomever’s feet you want, whenever you want, wherever you want. You’ll be obeying Christ’s commandment in a very literal, symbolic way. Thumbs up all around.

Just not during Holy Thursday Mass, where we commemorate the institution of the priesthood. I believe that’s the bigger picture “tradition-bound” Catholics are looking at. There are 364 other days throughout the year to choose from. I think it’s unfortunate Pope Francis officially changed the ritual, and it will lead to unforeseen problems down the road.

*I’m not calling Pope Francis a progressive, or opposed to Church teaching. I like to think he made this change to somehow bring about a greater good. But there are people in the Church who are, and they will use such gestures to advance their agendas.

Posted in Catholic Stuff, Holy Father, Holy Week Brings Out All the Nutjobs, If You Think This Is Misogyny I Can't Help You, Just My Opinion But You Know I'm Right, Liturgy, Mass, Pokin' Hornet Nests With A Stick, Pope Francis | 1 Comment

PARISH REPORT: Coffee Hour Staff Exercises, Prepares for Big Easter Sunday Crowds

(AoftheANews) – CHESTERFIELD – Staff and volunteers for the after-Mass Coffee Hour at St. Timothy the Glazed parish have been preparing themselves all Lent for Easter Sunday in much the same way most Catholics have been doing – penance, alms-giving, and praying – but they’ve added something else to their routine.

Exercise.

Hospitality Chairperson Kristy Kreem told AoftheA News that she wanted her staff and volunteers to be in the best shape possible – physically as well as spiritually – for the larger-than-usual Sunday crowd.

“Attendance will be double what St Tim’s normally has,” she said. “I can’t afford to have staff fainting from fatigue keeping fresh donuts and bagels on the tables at all times, or struggling to replace coffee urns, or stumbling around with pitchers of juice and Kool-Aid.”

To prevent problems from occurring, she incorporated mandatory exercise classes four nights a week back in mid-March, led by a certified crossfit coach.

“We will have the most fit, most prepared, strongest, fastest Coffee Hour crew in America,” she said. “Listen, kids will be crashing pretty hard from their pre-Mass Easter candy sugar highs, bouncing off the walls once Mass ends. We have to be ready to serve, serve, serve. Parents will be relying on us, which means lots of hot, fresh coffee.”

Kristy will have second-string staff on stand-by in the kitchen, should someone blow a knee or twist an ankle. “I learned my lesson two Easters ago when three servers went down with injuries during the 10:00 AM Coffee Hour. Proper conditioning would’ve prevented those from happening.”

Kristy considers her role as Hospitality Chairperson more than just making people feel welcome at St. Tim’s. “I take what I call the Donut Holistic approach to hospitality: I can’t give my whole to you if I have a hole in me. I read that somewhere on Pinterest, and it’s stuck with me ever since. It’s a beautiful Easter message that captures the true Christian spirit, I think.”

Photo credit: josefjer via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

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