Put Your Hand into My Side
The London Times of November 27, 1982, announced that on that very day the noted British journalist and television personality, Malcolm Muggeridge, and his wife, Kitty, were to be received into the Catholic Church. The Times followed its announcement with an article in which this 79 year old former editor of Punch explained why he and his wife were finally taking the step.
Muggeridge’s lower middle-class family were of Christian nondenominational background. His father, a member of the Labor party, liked to play the agnostic; so religion in the Muggeridge home was pretty much secularized. Malcolm took this secular view with him to Cambridge University, and then into the journalistic profession. Although Punch was a humorous magazine, it was based, under his editorship, on a serious outlook on life. It often featured articles on all sorts of religious manifestations, Christian and non-Christian. Editor Muggeridge was critical of many aspects of Christianity, and he felt he could view religion more objectively if he himself was affiliated to no religious organization. Still, he always felt that, as the human race was becoming increasingly secularized and absurd, God was pursuing him, like the “Hound of Heaven.”
After his retirement from Punch several years ago, Malcolm became increasingly interested in the Catholic Church. In a decade when thousands of people, including many Catholics, were deploring Pope Paul VI’s reasserted condemnation of contraception in Humanae Vitae, this non-Catholic “skeptic” praised it as the only reasonable view. Then Muggeridge met Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and saw her at work among Calcutta’s “poorest of the poor.” Frankly, it was her example, he said, that brought him into the Catholic Church: “She has given me a whole new vision of what being a Christian means; of the amazing power of love.”
St. Thomas the Apostle was an earlier skeptic who “came around.” It was the sight of these signs of Jesus’ love – the wounds in His hands, feet and side – that moved Thomas to cry out with conviction, “MY LORD AND MY GOD!”
-Father Robert F. McNamara
Q419: There are so many things that are hard to believe without proof. Can anything be harder than believing someone rose from the dead?
This is a powerful gospel reading today, full of Good News (John 20:19-31). It speaks of being “sent” to spread the Good News; of the transferred power to forgive sins; of the difficulty some have in believing other witnesses without “proof” (e.g., Thomas); and the centrality of “faith” in this post-resurrection era. All four things are closely related.
One can approach this gospel in several ways. The easiest is to think of it in “common sense” terms from a 21st century viewpoint. We are Catholics who truly believe that Jesus is risen and is the Son of God. We do not need to see this with our own eyes; we simply accept the witness of the apostles and believe – thanks to the gift of faith! It is this very belief that automatically transforms us into a forgiving people – we are called to imitate the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. As a believing and forgiving people, we are then sent to spread this Good News of the risen Christ, and the divine mercy of our God. Some are called to do this vocally; everyone is called to do this by the way we live our lives.
Jesus can transform all of our doubts into true belief, if we will let him. We must invite him into our lives, and ask him to “increase our faith.” The desire itself is the first step to being open to receive the gift of faith. The next step is to make that “leap” of trust, giving up our habit of trying to control the way things happen and simply depending on Jesus alone. Faith is an adventure which unfolds before us for the rest of our life – but now a life in his name!
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The risen Christ still bears the traces of his passion (nail marks), even though it is now a glorious body (CCC #645). Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily, for the Lord promised us (through St. Faustina) everything we ask that is compatible with His will (her Diary #1731; see also #1541).
Q575: I am not a doubter, like the apostle Thomas. So how does the gospel story today speak to me?
One of the most important teachings from St. Paul is that faith comes from hearing, and what folks hear is the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). That is straightforward, and it is the way that most of us came to faith. With the grace of God we believed in the verbal witness of our parents, who passed on the word that they had received, in a long line of verbal witnesses that eventually reaches back to the testimony of an eye witness of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.
What kind of witness did our parents provide? There are two aspects to their testimony. One is the teaching they provided – helping us to understand the inspired word of God, passed on in the Catholic Tradition from the Apostles to the Bishops and down to us. But there is a second kind of witness, and that is the way our parents lived their lives. That too is a proclamation of the Good News. The Gospel places an ethical demand on all of us to live out the values that Jesus taught his original disciples. Actions speak louder than words!
In our Gospel today (John 20:19-31) Thomas wanted ‘proof’ and would not accept the word of his friends about the Risen Lord. The fact is that we all learn about the Risen Lord in the midst of His faith community. Yet Thomas was absent from the community, a cause of his problem. That in itself is a lesson for us. If we do not gather with the believing community and listen to God’s inspired word, sharing our faith lives, then our faith will grow weak and fragile from lack of community support. Remember: when Thomas came back into his faith community, his problem of a weak faith was resolved. Today’s reading is not about doubt, but about faith and its transforming power.
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The gospel tells us that the things we read therein were written to bring us to faith, not having seen Jesus (CCC #514). Has your faith transformed you, like it did for Thomas? In what way?
Lord, I do Believe, Help my Unbelief.
These words were a petitioner’s response when asked if he believed Jesus could cure his child. They could have been a fitting response for doubting Thomas and could be appropriate for us when we find following Christ difficult. The other apostles saw Jesus on Easter morn and they believed But their belief was not confined to words. They went out and shared their joy with others, doing good for the sick and possessed. When Thomas saw the Lord he responded with the most explicit confession of faith in John’s Gospel: “My Lord and my God!” By Baptism we believe that we have been joined to Jesus in his death and resurrection. We are called to follow the example of the apostles even when that is hard to do.
Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief and enable me to extend my self in practical ways to deepen that faith in helping others.