Monday, April 6, 2015

Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 2 Sunday of Easter, B. April 12, 2015

The scholars of the Jesus seminar agree
that this story of the Doubting Thomas,
which appears only in John’s Gospel,
is first of all a creation for the community named after him.
That makes sense:
John’s community is concerned with talking about Jesus
with people who did not even know anyone who knew him—
60 to 90 years after the resurrection.
The scholars say that this Gospel uses the word “see”
in its meaning of having insight,
of perceiving the reality behind appearances.
In that sense, what happens to Thomas in that Upper Room
is that he “sees”—he understands—
the truth of the resurrection.
As a result, he steps into faith.
He follows Jesus as a response to an experienced reality,
not to a myth.
Doubting Thomas!
Yes, of course, Thomas doubted.
I would, too.
I still do.
I remember October 1, 1965.
It was a First Friday, about 5:45 in the afternoon,
and I was kneeling after communion
at Mass in the Chapel of the Newman Center at Ohio State.
I remember that particular day and time because
at that moment the doubts about my faith and my religion,
which I had ignored for some time,
became more real to me than my faith was.
It was the moment that I first honestly faced my doubts
and acknowledged that I had them.
It was a profoundly shattering moment for me.
In retrospect, though, it was a moment of grace,
the moment that launched my adult search for God
and brought me to the place where I am today.
The key to this gospel passage for us
is not that Thomas has doubts
but that he refuses to believe what the others tell him
because it contradicts his own knowledge and own experience.
Thomas has real doubts.
He just doesn’t “see.”
And he talks about his doubts.
When he has an experience of the risen Christ—
when he experiences that “ah-hah” moment of insight—
his doubt leaves him
and he believes.
Would Doubting Thomas have come to experience the risen Christ
if someone had told him he couldn’t talk about doubt,
or as I was told in the 1950s and 1960s,
that it was sinful to even ask questions about faith?
For much of our recent Church history
we’ve been told that it’s a sin to doubt,
and our attempts to ask questions
and understand God and Jesus
have been greeted with not-always-gentle hushing up.
Bishops and priests have been ordered
to keep quiet about their ideas.
Theologians have been silenced.
Women religious have been investigated.
As much as we like to praise our modern scripture scholarship
as “enlightened” and “modern,”
we have to acknowledge
that human thought and reflection
has been going on a long time.
The people of Biblical times may have been poor peasants,
but they knew how to make houses and clothes,
tend their flocks, grow their own food,
and dig wells for drinking water.
And they didn’t have Google to look it up on.
The same thing that happened to Thomas happens to us:
we have an experience of the risen Christ
and our doubts turn into faith.
The experience isn’t always dramatic,
like the story in today’s gospel.
Sometimes it’s a quiet acceptance of a series of quiet insights.
Sometimes it’s a leap ahead
and a fall back
and a leap ahead again,
like a car lurching along with a carburetor problem.
Insights about God can come to us in unlimited and unique ways.
We believe in our own experiences of what’s real.
Sometimes we’re wrong,
and we believe in something that’s not real.
Most of the time, though, we’re right,
and we believe in something real and,
when we act on it—when we test it out—
we find out that it’s true.
We believe.
It can be tragic,
like believing somebody loves us and finding out they don’t.
Most of the time, though, it’s wonderful, and it’s true.
Like believing we can get into college and being accepted.
Or believing we can make a difference
and finding a way to do it.
Or finding a friend and believing that we’ve found our life partner,
and making a commitment.
We are a community of believers,
as the Acts of the Apostles describes the early Christians,
of one heart and one mind—
we are like that.
That’s not to say that we are all the same and think the same way.
Yes, we all do believe in the Divine Presence that we call God.
We all believe in the message of Jesus,
God-with-us, unique expression of the Divine Presence.
We all believe in the Holy Spirit,
in whatever image
or however we conceptualize its/her/his force and power.
But we do not all believe in the same way;
we did not come to our belief in the same way;
we do not celebrate our belief in the same way.
We are not robots;
we are real people with unique life experiences,
and so we are really different—
each of us an expression of that Divine Presence—
within the unity that we share as human beings
and as children of the One God.
Doubting Thomas, yes, each one of us!
Doubting Beverly, and Doubting John,
Doubting Sue, and Doubting Chris,
and Doubting… put your own name in there.
And because we doubt,
because we question,
because we attend to the signs of our times,
because we are open
to discerning the Spirit in our own experience,
we are true believers,
each of us, all of us,
full of faith!
Glory be to God!

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

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