I think there’s a bit of Doubting Thomas in me this week…and I suspect that there’s a bit of Thomas in all of you as well.
I have doubted this week because it’s been hard for me to have confidence in our church’s leaders when story after story of priests and others who have abused children in our church have been in the headlines. I have doubted this week because it angers me that nobody thought it would have been a good idea to get the Pope on a plane to Ireland and then to Germany to meet with those who were abused and to develop a plan for reparation and reconciliation.
I doubt because I can’t believe that our church might last through all of this scandal, especially when the Pope gets named as someone who possibly knew about the child abuse in Germany and didn’t place the protection of children above the maintenance of clerical culture.
I’ve received dozens of e-mail comments and phone calls. I’ve seen some students troubled by the news. And I’ve seen priests embarrassed and saddened by the actions of their brothers.
Is there cause for doubt this week? I think rightly so. I’d be surprised if we didn’t doubt this church this week!
But isn’t “the church” larger and stronger than all of this? If we are all the church than those that abused others are far from the majority and shouldn’t the majority be able to stand with those who have been drastically hurt and make it a priority to give healing where it may be needed?
Perhaps we don’t doubt the church, perhaps we doubt ourselves. Is this problem so huge that we don’t think we together can overcome it? Has so much damage been done that we have a hard time thinking that we just don’t have enough time to give to those people who have been taken advantage of? While we haven’t committed any sins here, we are a family after all. And when members of our family make a mistake, it’s important for all of us to share a bit of responsibility for the sake of the family name–and show to others that we’re sorry and that we don’t want this to continue.
But instead, we often choose to be like Thomas.
The scripture tells us that Thomas was not present when the other disciples first saw Jesus. Well, where was he then? Some scholars praise Thomas for having the strength to have gotten up out of the upper room and overcoming his fear of imprisonment and death.
But perhaps Thomas just decided to get on with his life? Perhaps Thomas had given up on this Jesus? Perhaps it was all too overwhelming and Thomas threw it all to the wind?
But then he hears the news and he doesn’t buy it. I can just hear him. “I’ve been in this room for days and nothing happened and now you tell me that He’s back!? I don’t believe you. You just miss me and want we back in the fold. I get that. But unless I can put my fingers in his wounds I ain’t going to buy any of this.”
And then Thomas meets Jesus. The wounded Jesus. The rejected Jesus. The Jesus that he doubted could come back from those wounds and that death on a cross.
And don’t we meet that Jesus too? Don’t we find a bunch of wounded people who were abused by the religious authorities of our day. I’m sure people doubted those people too when they came forward with their stories.
And we doubt that they’d want to be back with us in our church because let’s face it, their wounds are too deep for us to try to overcome.
Our doubt leads us to hopelessness and hopelessness often leads to inertia. And in that inertia, our church stays locked in the upper room afraid to even say that we are Catholic because we know we have questions that others want the answers to. Questions that frustrate us and questions that we don’t want to answer and that we shouldn’t have had to answer if not for the dreadful sins of a few.
But most of us are Thomas. We just walk away and blend in with the crowd. Most people have forgotten that we were even followers of Jesus and we can easily go about our business without fear of retribution or even a question or two.
Do we have the courage today to continue to be Thomas. To look at the deep wounds that those who have been abused have and to probe into that pain and offer to be able to see the suffering Jesus in them.
For it will be in that moment that others will see that our faith is not based in human beings who are doomed to make mistakes, even horrible ones.
No, our faith is based in the wounded one who defeated death and who redeems all suffering and sin.
Can we continue to see Jesus and to come here each week and proclaim that Jesus is enough for us to overcome this once again. Can we come here each week and dare to become what we receive for others–and not just for those who have faced sex abuse but for the homeless, the pregnant teen and her unborn child, for those on death row and for all those people that nobody will dare to love.
Can we do it?
Can we believe?
I hope we can. For when we show our belief in Jesus, that just might allow others to see that same Jesus, who redeems suffering in us.
And when they meet that Jesus they too, might be able to then utter the words of Thomas:
“My Lord and My God.”
And those words are enough for all of us.