We can have faith in the Risen One only if we encounter Him. We can only encounter Him by following Him. Only if both things are true can we bear witness to Him and carry His light into the world. - Joseph Ratzinger
Easter Sunday was a banner day on FaceBook. It seemed that everyone had to post one of those annoying eCards about the famous, and really dumb, Billy Sunday quote: “Going to church does no more make you a Christian than standing around in a garage would make you a car,” or some such nonsense. I finally posted response to just about all instance of it saying: “But if you hung around a garage for any length of time and paid attention, tinkered a bit with the things parked there and perchance asked a few questions, standing around a garage might actually make a mechanic out of you. And if you hang around a church for any length of time and paid attention, tinkered a bit with the things parked there and perchance asked a few questions, standing around a church might actually make a Christian out of you.” Or at least it should.
We, the church, should pray that the Holy Spirit indeed might let the lost ones come into the realm of our influence so we might just show them how to follow and that in following they might come one day face to face with Jesus Christ. The early church, and I mean really early, in her first week of existence, seems to have done exactly that in the case of Thomas. They kept meeting, praying, perhaps doing other things they had seen Jesus do and even greater things (Jn 14:12) all the while confidant that Jesus would show up again and lay Thomas’ doubts to rest. Their patience was rewarded.
A quick rewind:
14:5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. 7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” What would happen if you stood around a church in the 21st century? A way, a truth, and a life, would somehow be evident. The question is: “Would they constitute the heart of Jesus?” I think that was the intent behind Billy Sunday’s horrible logic. Maybe he hated churches, I don’t know. Sometimes I do hate them myself. But, what if you hung around a church for any length of time and paid attention, tinkered a bit with the things parked there and perchance asked a few questions, standing around a church might actually make a mechanic out of you? Or worse?
Thomas can be a good lesson for us, not because he doubted and in our desperation to be useful we want to save him by our own power and strength. This is not so much about Thomas as it is about the body of Christ and the people of God, as community and as individuals. To be Christ to others we must actually “be Christ,” first. How is that project going?
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” If he is the way, then I have to follow whatever that may entail even if that means in the words of Thomas: “Let us go die with him.” (Jn 11:16) If he is the truth then what he has taught me must be what I speak and I do well to not speculate overly much about other truthesees that offer themselves not because I am incurious but because I have been called to this truth and no other. If he is the life, then a peculiar way of living is laid out for me and I have no authority or reason to live another.
This story of Thomas is not so only about his doubts. He is a challenge to our faith. These things written for us are there so that we may continue to have faith. (I am favoring the textual variant in 20:31 that makes the sentence read: “These things are written so that you will continue to have faith.”) They are written that I might know the way, that I may know the truth, and that with these I might have and continue to have life. The Thomases of the world await. They would see Jesus. (Jn12:21)