As we look back on the great feast of Easter Fr Evangelist Ohaejesi, Parish Priest of St Joseph’s, Wath-upon-Dearne, helps us to reflect on regular worship as means to strengthen our faith by focusing on the experience of Thomas.
Jesus rose from the dead contrary to his enemies’ and even friend’s expectation. On a number of occasions during his ministry, he foretold his resurrection, but his followers did not understand. Many of them who saw what happened on Calvary thought it was the end of him and decided to leave the Jesus’ project, some in anger, others in disappointment.
Why are many well-meaning Christians so uncommitted to attending regular Sunday church services? The answer can be given in one word: doubt or crisis of faith. People today, like people of all times, do have a hunger for God. They are searching for the meaning of life. But they doubt whether the answer to these existential questions can be found within the four walls of the Church. For this reason they are more disposed to spend time in social action, in work and in intellectual pursuit rather than in Church worship. One of the gospel’s we hear during Easter gives us an example of a man who felt exactly like that. His name is Thomas.
The disciples gathered together on Sunday, the first day of the week. Since the disciples were Jews they would attend synagogue services on the Sabbath (Saturday) and on Sunday they would assemble together as believers in Christ. Since they are gathered together in his name, Jesus would appear to them as he had earlier promised them: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). In this way Sunday became known as the day of the Lord, the day Christ comes to meet and strengthen his people, the special day of Christian worship. Such services were usually held in the evening. The first Christian Sunday worship following the resurrection of the Lord, the disciples are gathered for Sunday service and what do we notice, Thomas is not there. Where is Thomas?
You can see that Thomas is like one of these modern-day Christians who do not regularly attend Mass. Such people are not there in church when Jesus comes to meet his people and to strengthen them in their faith. As a result, they remain with their doubts. Initially all the disciples had their doubts. But because of their encounter with the risen Lord in Sunday worship their doubt was turned into faith. Thomas missed that experience.
Being a wise man, Thomas resolves never again to miss the Sunday gathering of believers. The gospel reading continues, “A week later [ie the following Sunday] his disciples were again in the house, and [this time around] Thomas was with them [and as usual] Jesus came and stood among them (John 20:26). This time Thomas had his own share of the resurrection experience. Immediately his doubt changed into faith and he fell down and worshipped, saying, “My Lord and my God!” (verse 28). Now ask yourself, What if Thomas had stayed away from church saying, “Prove it! Prove it to me that Jesus is risen and then I will come,” would it be possible to prove it to him by arguments alone? Sometimes the best argument you can give to someone out there who is in doubt and does not believe is a sentence in three words, “Come and see.”
Come in and let the risen Lord who is here with us in Sunday worship, the Lord who is here in his word and in the Eucharist, let him, himself, speak to you and touch your heart and then you will doubt no longer but believe. The answer to our religious questions and doubts is not out there. The answer is right in here. When you are in doubt, think of doubting Thomas and learn from his own experiences. Come and you will see.
Our faith is not built on any scientific proof or experiment, but on the resurrection of Jesus. It is built on listening and acting on the words of the Risen One who is present in the community here gathered in his name. The only thing that can be verified is the type of new life we live as Christians, if it corresponds to that of the risen Jesus.
Lord God, give us the grace to believe in you even when we cannot understand, and in believing may our faith in you reflect in our daily lives so that the world will know that we are your disciples. Amen