Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Power of Transformation

Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle
By Colleen O'Sullivan

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed 
are those who have not seen and have believed.”  (John 20:24-29)

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You.
(from “You Are My Hiding Place” by Michael James Ledner)

When I was growing up and television was still black and white, I remember a commercial that played over and over again.  It was for some laundry detergent with reputedly extraordinary whitening power.  Night after night, the woman about to wash clothes looked into the camera with a poker face and said, “I’m from Missouri.  Show me.”
That’s how many of us picture “Doubting” Thomas, arms tightly crossed, saying to the other disciples, “Prove it.  I don’t believe you really saw Jesus.  Unless I see and touch his scars myself, I’ll never believe it.”  We read the story as some kind of indictment of him and his lack of faith. 
I wouldn’t be too quick, though, to point an accusing finger at the apostle, because, in his shoes, I might have had exactly the same reaction.  It seems all too human.  And if Thomas’ doubts were the main focus of the story, why would we be celebrating his feast day?  We don’t usually lift up a person’s weaknesses or failings.
This is more a story about the power of transformation, about Jesus’ ability to walk through the walls we erect to contain our doubts and fears and to forever change us.  No locked door can stop the Lord.  He passes right through.  He invites Thomas to behold him, to touch his scars, and to believe.  The skeptic is immediately transformed.  He exclaims, “My Lord and my God!”  Thomas is the only person in the Gospel who ever directly addresses Jesus as God.
Tradition has it that Thomas carried the faith to India, preaching the Good News and creating new communities of believers in Christ.

We put up walls and hide behind locked doors for many reasons.  But I know firsthand that Jesus still slips into these rooms with us and, through the power of the Spirit, heals and transforms us.  If you find yourself locked in with grief, doubts, fears, anger, consequences of sin, whatever, invite the Lord in.  Allow yourself to be set free.  Then you, too, will joyfully exclaim, “My Lord and my God!”

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