A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
After the joys and blessings of Holy Week and Easter, the past week might have seemed somewhat of an anti climax – but it shouldn’t have done so , because every Sunday is a celebration of the unique and wonderful promise of Easter Day and every weekday provides us with countless opportunities to do what St John does in his Gospel, share the Good News with our Christian brothers and sisters, and proclaim the Good News to those who are not yet part of the Christian Family.
I have a friend whom I get on very well with, but whenever I – and presumably other people too – tell him something that might cause an element of surprise or shock or incredulity, his response is always along the lines of ‘Who told you that?’ or ‘Where did you get that from?’ It is very irritating because it implies that he doubts my credibility and wants proof all the time – even if that proof is as basic as ‘I read it in the Telegraph!’
Now if someone were to ask you how you know that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, what response would you give? Is it convincing enough to answer that you believe what the Gospels tell us about him? Is it enough to say that you’ve been brought up to believe it? I think St John the writer of today’s Gospel may have been faced with a similar questions when he thought about writing his Gospel. He must have pondered over what it was that would help people to believe, how he could answer the doubter, what it was that would support and encourage the faith of those who claimed to believe. The other writers of the Gospels concentrate very much on Jesus teaching and healing, but John adopted a different approach. He uses the things that Jesus did – miracles we can call them, and renames them signs – signs of Jesus divinity, signs that point to the fact that Jesus is Messiah. And of all the things that Jesus did, John chooses only seven, seven that point without a shadow of doubt if any existed, to the fact that only Jesus, Son of God, Messiah, could perform such wonders, seven wondrous deeds that will lead us to total and unquestioning belief. But St John does understand that there may be those who need further convincing and lets us know that if doubt does still exists, then there are countess more incidents that were witnessed by his disciples, his followers, incidents that are too numerous to mention in this Gospel.
Today we read about an event that took place exactly a week after the Resurrection – an event the anniversary of which actually falls today. Thomas reminds me somewhat of the friend I spoke about earlier- the one who always wants evidence for whatever is told him. Thomas’ friends, the Apostles told him that Jesus had been raised, and he doubted, he did not believe because he wanted proof, and the proof that they gave him, ‘We have seen the Lord’ was not good enough. A brave man indeed to doubt the words of his nine closest friends in their very presence, but in a way we can sympathise with Thomas. Perhaps he believed internally but reason told him that what he had been told just could not be true-it defied nature and reason. We can sympathise with Thomas also in that he probably felt left out, he was the only one not to have experienced that wonderful event, and he may well have felt wounded inside, knowing that he should have been with the other Apostles in that room on that occasion. On the other hand, he may have felt that if Jesus really had appeared, if he really is risen, why didn’t he wait until all the Apostles were together- Thomas included – before making that grand entrance. Thomas absence caused him to feel cut off, separated from, and outside the community of the Apostles.
Isn’t that a true picture of so many people today, people who say they cannot believe all that stuff about Jesus death and resurrection, about His being Son of God, about his ascending to heaven and returning some day in the future. Why do they feel like that, what is it that will help them to come to belief?
Thomas said unless he could touch Jesus he would not believe – and perhaps that is the evidence that Mr and Mrs Doubter in the street are searching for.
I think we are all allowed a little bit of self satisfaction in considering the words Jesus addressed to Thomas – Blessed are those who have not seen yet have come to believe, but at the same time, we must not gloat in the wonderful gift of faith that we have accepted. If we truly believe that it is possible to do what Thomas did, to put out our hands and touch the Risen Lord, then we must do everything in our power to bring others to His table, to help them to reach out their hands and touch the body and blood of Christ presented to us in the Holy Sacrament of Communion.