Thomas The Forgiven

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Thomas The Forgiven

Let your light shine before men.

A favorite Easter story concerns Thomas who refused to believe that his companions had "seen the Lord". Few of us can list all of the apostles, but we remember Thomas because we can resonate with Thomas' doubt. He is called the Twin and the Doubter, but another title could be the Forgiven because he unwittingly became the occasion Jesus used to teach about forgiveness on two successive Sundays. Thomas missed Easter Sunday when Christ instituted the sacrament of forgiveness and Thomas was present on the second Sunday apparition as an object of forgiveness.
After enjoying a peaceful Passover supper, the complacent disciples protested their loyalty to Christ, left the upper room and then the powers of darkness were loosed. What did they do? They ran away, hid and denied that they ever heard of Christ. We might say "How despicable!" until we realize that we very likely would have done the same if we were there. It was, however, still despicable. After fleeing to safety, finding time to catch their breath and think over what happened, the apostles must have wondered how could they ever apologize to the Lord? How would they ever find the words to express their sorrow?
Then on Easter Sunday the resurrected Jesus suddenly stood before them. There were no apologies; indeed no apologies were needed since it was clear to the apostles that Jesus had just forgiven them. Christ took this dramatic moment to teach them a crucial lesson. He taught them to forgive each other and to become experts at forgiveness, then He instituted the sacrament of forgiveness. It was a powerful lesson, proposing God's tolerance for human weakness as a norm for forgiveness of others. Forgiveness was to have a very high priority in His kingdom. Of many possible altruistic human acts such as almsgiving, service and teaching it was forgiveness that became a sacrament that day. Why did God choose this way is a mystery, but the opposite - lack of forgiveness - has causedunending hatred, wars and suffering since Adam.
Later Thomas returned and became surprisingly stubborn in disbelief of his companions' story. He kept repeating his doubt whenever they would protest "we have seen the Lord." The apostles had to put up with his obstinacy for a week. It almost seemed as if this was an immediate opportunity provided for the disciples allowing them to put into practice the forgiveness Jesus had just taught them - somewhat like a homework exercise.
Bernini's CHAIR of PETER
It is clear from the history of the early church that there were many occasions for the disciples to practice this art of forgiveness. The first four chapters of the Acts of the Apostles present an idyllic description of that first Christian community. The next twenty four chapters relate how this same church almost came apart at the seams as it recorded singularly unpardonable offenses of treachery, simony, rivalries, calumny, bickering and defections.
Too often we hear the myth of the"good old days" when everything in the Church went as God (and we) would like. The fact is that there were no "good old days" -not forty years ago, not the last century, not even in the primitive church. The Church always had terrible life-threatening problems and we still have them today: persecutions from without and perfidy from within. The early Christians appreciated that living the Faith was an ambitious and difficult enterprise. In the gospel, the prominence of detailed stories concerning Judas' betrayal, Peter's triple denial, Thomas' doubt and the flight of the Twelve illustrates how they shared each others' pain and scars.
It seems that today the number of accused and accusers are daily increasing and we find plenty of opportunity in our own lives to forgive either real or imaginary offenses of our neighbors. Perhaps never more needed than today is this Easter story concerning the sacrament of forgiveness instituted when Thomas was absent and the art of forgiveness when Thomas was present.

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