Solemnity – St Thomas, Apostle of India.
Young people, no matter what generation they may have lived in, want to jump right into a world of choices and truly this generation has way too many choices to make. There is much to see, much to explore, much to do, much to eat….so many people to love. God does not seem to find himself even close on the top of these lists of choices that most young people would make.
Having rolled over the hill, the sins of our youth are ever before us. Chance rather than choice, love replaced by lust, self over others… the list of those ‘mistakes’ seems to be endless. For most of the time that we spent in our youth, we relegated God to the role of a spare tire; he was remembered but only in emergency, when our tire was flat.
What is the point I am making? It is not God who denies us his love. It is not God who delays breaking into our lives. It is simply we who push him off. We could choose to believe in what he says at the age of 21 but we chose to take him seriously at 51, when ‘our passport having arrived we await our visa to be stamped.’ So, is delaying the presence of God in our lives just the ill of our time?
St Thomas did the same. Jesus had risen, it was Easter Sunday and hardly had he stepped out of the tomb, Jesus chose to appear to the apostles. John 20 tells us the narrative of the first Easter Sunday. He tells us that in the evening of that first Easter Sunday Jesus appeared to the apostles. He showed them his hands and side for he understood that they were not only terrified of the Jews but perhaps mortified that this could be a ghost they were seeing. He gives them the gift of peace and then breaths the Holy Spirit on them and gave them the power to forgive or retains sins. He had given this power earlier only to Peter, now he gives it to them all. Then, scripture tells us, that Thomas was not there!
I don’t want to make St Thomas our favourite whipping boy for what happened next. Too long, we have thrown St Thomas in the dock with a label that says, ‘doubting Thomas!’ Yes, he had doubts but we never call St Peter ‘betraying Peter’ or St John or St James the ‘angry apostles.’ St Thomas has patiently borne centuries of name calling for ONE single lapse of faith. That is a punishment too harsh to bear.
But, there was another mistake he made that day, one that seems to be over looked. It is true he would not believe; it is true that he wanted proof and what is true is that while the others accepted the resurrection on Easter Sunday, Thomas chose to wait another full week to celebrate Easter. It was a week later that the Lord appeared to Thomas, it was a week later that Thomas relaised his foolishness; it was a delayed Easter for Thomas because he chose not to believe.
Go back to the start of this article. It is not God who does not want young people to rally around him, rather it is the sins of our youth that keep us from accepting Christ. When we do find our Lord in our 50’s we come to realise too late, the time we have lost with him. While our acclamations of love can never be too late and perhaps like Thomas, our acclamations of love are profound when we too find our own version of “My Lord and My God,” yet we chose to lose the love of our Lord for so many years only to discover that with him all things were possible.
Many of you, reading this text may be well past your prime. You are no longer the spring chicken you once were and age has taken its toll. The intention of this reflection is not burden you with guilt but to encourage you to reach out to some young person and share your testimony. Share, how you were once them, young and reckless but even more how you are now an ardent lover of Christ.
Young people have doubts like Thomas did. Christ took the time to meet every doubt of Thomas. “Put your hand into my side” he said to Thomas. Christ met Thomas where he was in his spiritual life and we need to meet young people where they are. No doubt is too silly to be explained and the best explanation is the foolish mistakes of our own life. Will young people get it? May be not right away but this I know; you sowed the seeds of faith.
The Sunday preceding or following the feast of St Thomas is celebrated in many Archdioceses as faith formation Sunday. Go out therefore and sow a seed of faith. You don’t need a degree in theology, your mistakes and failings of the past and the joy of knowing Christ in the present, makes you a professor par excellence in the faith.