Thomas walks into the room and cannot believe his eyes; he might KNOW the truth, he has heard the prophesy but he still doubts. Doubt is an emotion; it’s not rational or cognitive. No matter how much someone tries to talk you out of your doubt, doubt persists. I imagine the other disciples chastising Thomas, admonishing him for being so full of doubt, calling into question how much he TRULY believed in Jesus. But I don’t hear Jesus joining in this admonishment. I imagine a very private moment when Jesus looks at Thomas and then Thomas with a look or with words attempts to apologize. Thomas KNOWS what he should believe but he cannot deny his doubt. Jesus never asks Thomas to STOP feeling that doubt. Instead, with compassion and patience, Jesus pulls Thomas close and says, “Give me your hand.” Jesus guides Thomas’ hand to the wounds in his side. I imagine that the whole time, Jesus never stops looking at Thomas. He HOLDS Thomas close , enveloping Thomas despite all his doubt in that moment. Jesus acknowledges Thomas’ feelings. Jesus KNOWS Thomas’ feelings of doubt are powerful, real and must be attended to.
For me, it is one of the most poignant and authentic moments of Jesus’ ministry. It sets the example of how to be human. This was not a divine miracle. This was a purely human moment that originates from LOVE and compassion. Jesus SEES Thomas and accepts his frailty and weakness, the emotionality that impedes Thomas’s faith. Maybe Jesus had to catch himself for he too struggles with a full spectrum of human emotions. Maybe Jesus fights the urge to sigh heavily or roll his eyes, maybe he had a flash of impatience or disappointment but he never shows Thomas those things. Instead, he is so kind. Why? Because Thomas’ conversion and faith in the resurrection requires Thomas to beat his doubt. Jesus can see Thomas struggles against that doubt the same way Jesus struggled in the Garden. The Enemy can use our emotions as a wedge to separate us from our faith. I remind myself that Thomas had doubt and he could TOUCH Jesus. Doubt is a powerful human experience and if we are being asked to stop doubting, we need close, reassuring, loving kindness.
I love my emotionality. Whether right or wrong, I categorize my emotionality as the more feminine part of my nature. The joy that fills my heart when I see my sons is pure. The bliss I felt when I stood in the nave of the Basilica in Rome was a true conversion moment; I could feel the voices and prayers of a millennium of the Faithful swirling around me. But when someone says that they love me, I doubt. It is a microscopic version of Thomas doubting that Jesus loved us so much he died for us. When someone says they love me, I doubt. I need to be pulled close and I need my hand taken and I need patience and kindness and gentleness. Fussing at me and telling me to stop doubting doesn’t help. I KNOW what I should believe but doubt sows itself into that space and if it grows, it wedges the whole things apart. Like Thomas, I can’t talk myself out of my doubt. It requires an outside force. I keep waiting for Jesus’ kind hand to envelop mine and say, “I understand your doubt, let me SHOW you why you can stop doubting.” But most men are not like Jesus. Shoot, I am often far from this Christ-like model, especially with myself. I admonish myself and chastise myself for FEELING how I FEEL. I must remind myself that how I FEEL is not wrong. Maybe the feelings are impractical or irrational or impulsive….but they are nonetheless REAL. And it is these emotions that make me HUMAN. It is also these emotions that lead to my deep faith, my ability to love grandly and passionately. These emotions emotions are how I can overcome my fear and risk my heart again and no one should be talking me out of my feelings….not if they really love me.