Father Koch: Like Thomas, there are many who struggle ...

April 5, 2024 at 1:06 p.m.
TURIN, ITALY - MARCH 13, 2017: The The painting  The Doubt of St. Thomas in Church Chiesa di Santo Tomaso by unknown artist of 18. cent.
TURIN, ITALY - MARCH 13, 2017: The The painting The Doubt of St. Thomas in Church Chiesa di Santo Tomaso by unknown artist of 18. cent. (Renata Sedmakova)


Gospel reflection for April 7, 2024, Second Sunday of Easter

The reports on that Sunday morning, fueled by the frantic account of Mary Magdalene, likely caused much division and raised more questions than answers among those assembled in the Upper Room. As the story spread among disciples gathered around Jerusalem, many more likely made their way there to hear the eye witness accounts of Peter and the Beloved Disciple after they returned from the tomb. Then, as Mary Magdalene makes her way back to the disciples after her encounter with Jesus, whom she thought to be the gardener, the details become even more remarkable.

It is at this point that we move from the present experience of the witnesses of the empty tomb to the realm of faith.

Over the days which we call Holy Week the disciples experienced a multitude of emotions and, in the account of John’s Gospel, heard Jesus say many things. Given the seeming suddenness of the crucifixion of Jesus, they had little time to process all that they had seen and heard. Undoubtedly there were arguments, various interpretations, and attempts to understand what was to happen next. Jesus had spoken of resurrection, and even of his own, but they were not prepared for what happened now.

In the Last Supper discourse, John recounts many sayings of Jesus. Among them is this exchange between Jesus and Thomas: “‘And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be Where [I] am going you know the way.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’” It is here, then, that Jesus responds, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” What we do not know is whether this response settled Thomas’s mind, or if it left him unsettled and opened even more questions.

Now, on the day of the resurrection, Thomas is absent from the room when Jesus appears to his disciples. Just days before he challenged Jesus, so it is no surprise, then, that he failed to accept the testimony of those in the Upper Room that Jesus had appeared to them. Given Thomas’s earlier recorded questions to Jesus, the others are likely not surprised that he struggles now.

It takes another week and a specific and personal encounter with the Risen Lord, before Thomas can utter: “my Lord and my God” as a public testimony of his faith in the resurrection of Jesus.

His journey in faith — to be able to proclaim, “my Lord and my God” — reflects the struggle of many who resist accepting the gift of faith.

Doubt is a normal process in the life of faith. Each one of us has our own personal struggle in coming to surrender to Jesus and live our lives with the certainty that the disciples, including Thomas, are able to live. Yes, theirs was a specific relationship and mission, but each one of us has our own specific relationship and mission with Jesus.

In the midst of our own doubts and struggles we pray for the strength to power through, and to have the persistence of Thomas who hung around even when he was the only one — at least publicly — who expressed doubt at the resurrection.

In a sense Thomas, the doubting apostle, is a model and patron for each Christian. Perhaps it is for this reason that his story is preserved and handed-on to us. We need to embrace our doubts and struggles, and it might even be a good thing to pray through the intercession of Thomas to guide us along the way of our own.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.


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Gospel reflection for April 7, 2024, Second Sunday of Easter

The reports on that Sunday morning, fueled by the frantic account of Mary Magdalene, likely caused much division and raised more questions than answers among those assembled in the Upper Room. As the story spread among disciples gathered around Jerusalem, many more likely made their way there to hear the eye witness accounts of Peter and the Beloved Disciple after they returned from the tomb. Then, as Mary Magdalene makes her way back to the disciples after her encounter with Jesus, whom she thought to be the gardener, the details become even more remarkable.

It is at this point that we move from the present experience of the witnesses of the empty tomb to the realm of faith.

Over the days which we call Holy Week the disciples experienced a multitude of emotions and, in the account of John’s Gospel, heard Jesus say many things. Given the seeming suddenness of the crucifixion of Jesus, they had little time to process all that they had seen and heard. Undoubtedly there were arguments, various interpretations, and attempts to understand what was to happen next. Jesus had spoken of resurrection, and even of his own, but they were not prepared for what happened now.

In the Last Supper discourse, John recounts many sayings of Jesus. Among them is this exchange between Jesus and Thomas: “‘And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be Where [I] am going you know the way.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’” It is here, then, that Jesus responds, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” What we do not know is whether this response settled Thomas’s mind, or if it left him unsettled and opened even more questions.

Now, on the day of the resurrection, Thomas is absent from the room when Jesus appears to his disciples. Just days before he challenged Jesus, so it is no surprise, then, that he failed to accept the testimony of those in the Upper Room that Jesus had appeared to them. Given Thomas’s earlier recorded questions to Jesus, the others are likely not surprised that he struggles now.

It takes another week and a specific and personal encounter with the Risen Lord, before Thomas can utter: “my Lord and my God” as a public testimony of his faith in the resurrection of Jesus.

His journey in faith — to be able to proclaim, “my Lord and my God” — reflects the struggle of many who resist accepting the gift of faith.

Doubt is a normal process in the life of faith. Each one of us has our own personal struggle in coming to surrender to Jesus and live our lives with the certainty that the disciples, including Thomas, are able to live. Yes, theirs was a specific relationship and mission, but each one of us has our own specific relationship and mission with Jesus.

In the midst of our own doubts and struggles we pray for the strength to power through, and to have the persistence of Thomas who hung around even when he was the only one — at least publicly — who expressed doubt at the resurrection.

In a sense Thomas, the doubting apostle, is a model and patron for each Christian. Perhaps it is for this reason that his story is preserved and handed-on to us. We need to embrace our doubts and struggles, and it might even be a good thing to pray through the intercession of Thomas to guide us along the way of our own.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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