According to the church calendar, I should have been thinking about Thomas last Sunday. But I was home sick, and mostly was thinking about my lungs, and hoping we wouldn’t have to meet face-to-face. Now that I’ve had the benefit of a week’s reflection, I’m ready to write about Thomas.
Thomas was also a week late, a week out of sync with the church. This is reassuring to me, because I often find myself out of sync with what I imagine to be the emotions of liturgical Christians everywhere: full of joy on Easter Sunday, immersed in sorrow on Good Friday. I mostly can manage sorrow at any time, but this Easter Sunday I was feeling snarky. We didn’t get the hymns that say “Easter” to me; after two months out of town I really wanted to feel “home,” and didn’t. I imagine Thomas, too, felt out of sorts when the other disciples had moved on to Easter joy and he was still in mourning.
And so we have “Doubting Thomas,” the disciple not to follow. Thomas, the one who wants proof. I was once in a little church in Amsterdam with a lady who was a very devout Christian. The church had twin statues of Saints Peter and Paul; my companion, studying the statue of Peter, commented: “He was the one who denied Christ.” At the time I thought, “Boy, one bad night and people remember it for millennia.” Of course Peter, the original Comeback Kid, is not remembered primarily for his betrayal. But Thomas has never really overcome his reputation as a doubter. Some have suggested he should replace St. Dominic as the patron of science which is, after all, just organized doubt.
The thing that never occurred to me, until I heard it in a wonderful sermon by Karen Haig (a priest at St. Thomas, Medina, Washington), is that Thomas wasn’t asking for anything more than what the other disciples had received. They’d all seen him with their own eyes. So what made Jesus reprove Thomas for having to see for himself?
I don’t know, but I do know that Thomas was out of sync with the others, and was asked to be faithful in that place, with what he had been given. And when my feelings are unpredictable, ungovernable, and I feel isolated and out of step (raise your hand if you’ve ever been depressed at Christmas), there is a way to be faithful in that place. Not because I can muster up the “right” feelings, but because I can trust that God is with me in the feelings I have.
In the end, how I feel is not the most important thing. Of course clinical depression should be treated, and suffering should be met with compassion. But I’m learning not to fret too much about just being in the wrong emotional place at the wrong time. After all, Thomas got “Saint” put before his name, and has churches named after him. And he was out of sync, too, but when his moment came it was Thomas who had the faith to say what none of them had dared: “My Lord and my God.”