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The blessing of doubt

Jesus’ invitation to Thomas to place his finger in the wounds on his wrists and put his hand into his side can seem to be a bit like Jesus calling him to account for doubting what he had heard from the others.

It rings of the attitude, if you don’t believe what others have told you, come here and have a look for yourself.

However, a closer look at the story in the context of the type of person the scriptures have portrayed Jesus as being, should prompt us to think of the meeting more as an act of gentle kindness, rather than a correction.

Dubbed the Doubting Thomas, the disciple is in many ways the patron saint of each one of us, as no one is immune from doubt. Doubt is part of our human makeup and experience of faith.

Of course, when Thomas saw the concrete evidence, he believed. However, this is not a conversion from non-belief to belief, but more a reassurance that what he thought was too good to be true is, in fact, a reality.

Uncertainty and deep-seated fear is a common experience for all of us.

The attitude, seeing is believing is common for us. It even comes under the heading of what we believe to be common sense, although often this is not as common as we might think.

Jesus offers compassion to Thomas. He understands his hesitancy to take the word of his brothers at their face value. After all, he is the only one who is challenged to believe without seeing first.

The disciples were a group of extremely frightened men at the time and Thomas was no less frightened than the others.

Jesus’ visit to the room was a great act of compassion for the traumatised group. Each of the people huddled in what we know as the Upper Room was in need of healing and Jesus’ presence brought great comfort to them.

The doubt expressed by Thomas proved to be a great lesson for all of them. They witnessed the gentility of Jesus in the face of this doubt, saw how he gently cajolled Thomas by offering him concrete proof of his identity.

Jesus was kind, understanding and supportive. The disciples saw the effect of his attitude on all of them.

It was a lesson to them in how to become healers themselves, and offer to others the understanding and acceptance they had received from Jesus.

The disciples were at a stage in their lives of great disruption. Their dreams had been shattered, everything they had lived for and strived for over the years seemed to have come to naught.

This is a lesson to us, as Christian people, of how we should reach out to others whose dreams have been shattered. They are all around us. Those who have lost loved ones, who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, lost a job or seen their work fade into oblivion.

We are challenged to become Easter people and believe in resurrections, both small and big. We are asked to believe in more than we can see and to believe that what seems impossible today, may well be the reality of tomorrow.