Sunday Reflection - Fr Terry Tastard

 In the Gospel this Sunday (John 20.19-31) we read that the doors were closed. We have here a picture of the fledgling Church the disciples, and possibly Mary too (see Acts 1.14). There is a difference between a church and a sect. A sect is a group of people who have turned away from the world and who huddle together for comfort. At this point the disciples were in danger of becoming a sect, shutting off the world and having nothing to do with it. The doors of their minds were closed. The doors were closed for fear of the Jews. We need to read this carefully because such texts have sometimes been twisted to justify antisemitism. We need to remember that the disciples, too, were Jews. What this really means is fear of the authorities. Perhaps we might look at ourselves. What authorities do we live under and fear? There are the authorities of the crowd, of fashion, of popular opinion, the media. It takes courage to resist this tide, but can we be Christians if we are swept away by every passing wave? What makes the difference is that Jesus makes himself known among them. The presence of Christ, and his word of peace, gives the Church the courage to face outwards. From now on the doors will be open. Now let's look at Thomas. His voice is very much a voice from our own age too. People around us are sceptical as never before. They want to put God under the microscope and to be convinced, as if God could be shrunk into our powers of understanding. Of course, it can never be so. But look at what Christ does. He shows his wounds to Thomas. It is a moment of moving vulnerability. Christ does not overwhelm Thomas with a display of power or a miracle. No, he shows the marks of suffering. The Church has always been more convincing when it has followed Christ in the way of the cross, when it has been close to suffering people and when it has known suffering itself. To have faith does not mean that we do not have questions. In fact, I would say that faith and questions go together. We look on the pain of the world, and we ask sometimes, where is God? Perhaps we ask the wrong question. Sometimes as we look on how human beings treat one another we should ask, not where is God, but where is humanity? We notice, however, that Christ does not rebuke the doubt of Thomas. He speaks to Thomas's questions. Then we hear the words of Christ: Doubt no longer but believe. Questions have their place, but there comes a time when we must make an affirmation of faith. To go on questioning forever is an adolescent trait. Thomas, after all, could have continued doubting and could have asked for more proof, for proof, in fact, that this was not a hallucination. Instead he chooses: "My Lord and my God" are his words. This scene gives us the Church. A fellowship of believers who encourage one another. A place where questions can be asked and answers sought. Where Jesus is acknowledged as Lord and God, and we become disciples ourselves. Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Brook Green, London W6

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