Today’s Gospel reading keeps us at the conclusion of the book of John – chapter 20, verses 19 to 31. A very familiar passage to many of us – the story of “Doubting Thomas”.
Here is the passage in full. Even if you’ve read it a hundred times, go through it slowly – there’s always something new that the Holy Spirit has in store for you.
Their doors were shut out of fear
John starts this off by indicating that the disciples had shut the doors out of fear. To them it was fear of the Jews – which really meant fear of persecution and perhaps bodily harm, just as what had befallen Jesus.
It’s interesting to relate this to our time right now. Most of us have also “shut our doors” in isolation. We’ve done so out of a sense of responsibility and obedience to what’s asked of us, but are our doors shut solely out of responsibility or is there also fear there?
And what about the doors to our hearts? Are these shut out of fear as well? If so, are we in touch with these fears, where they came from, who they’re directed towards? Jesus wants to be with us and give us his Peace, just as he did for the disciples – have we shut him out?
Fr. John from my home parish of St. Joseph’s has a lovely view on this part – he comments that Jesus doesn’t come through the door, nor does it say how He “walked through the wall”, but that He’s already there. He’s been there all along, it’s just that He chose to reveal Himself. For us, the same holds true – He’s already here, with us, right now.
If we keep our hearts locked away, if we spend our time with fear rather than Him, we simply can’t accept His Peace. The good news (or, more accurately, the Good News, as in Gospel) is that He’s already here with us – the issue is usually that we choose not to be with Him.
Belief is a choice
Very few of us get a chance to experience Jesus’ presence the way Thomas and the disciples did, instead we’re asked to believe anyway. It’s a choice.
We must choose, do we want to believe or do we not? All the facts, evidence and research in the world will still leave us at the doorstep of that choice. Perhaps we’re just delaying our choice. Unfortunately, there’s no middle option, you either choose to believe (option A) or you choose to reject (option B)…delaying the choice is another way of picking option B until you actually choose A. Do we want to be believe or do we not?
Why would we want to believe? Think of it this way – what if it’s all true? His Peace, His strength in us, the ability to “move mountains”, unlimited knowledge, everlasting life, our place in Heaven and how it will exceed all of our wildest dreams. Who wouldn’t want that? So what’s stopping us from choosing what all of us would want?
Choosing to believe means we choose a world where all these things are real and promised. It provides a lens through which we see the world differently, with a new sense of meaning. Things we used to fear – sickness, physical harm, suffering, even death – can now be viewed in a whole different light based on what we choose to believe is in store for us.
Life in His name
John concludes his gospel with “…and that believing you may have life in his name.” Making that choice – choosing to believe all of this is true – is the gateway to a very different way of living, one contrary to what we’ve all grown up thinking is important and contrary to what the “world” tells us we should adopt.
If you’ve already made this choice or just re-affirmed it, there’s no hanging around that gateway just chilling out. There’s work to be done.
First, have a close look at what influences you’re allowing into your life. Who are you learning from? Who is entertaining you? Who’s filling your head? Is it the world or are they things that help you better understand your choice and what that means for you? How can you better learn from Jesus to truly know what you’re doing is aligned with His call?
Second, have a look at your way of life and see if it’s consistent with that choice. Does your time go towards things that affirm that choice and provide evidence to others what choice you made? Does your behaviour encourage others to know what you chose and inspire them to do the same?
Last, look closely at your habits – the things that anchor your day. These also are choices – be purposeful about turning them into habits that keep you on the right path so that you truly are living a life in His name. If all of it is true, you’ll be forever grateful (literally).