Why did “Doubting Thomas” Doubt?

Caravaggio , "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas." 1601-1602
Caravaggio , “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.” 1601-1602

Spiritual reflections around the Catholic Church today will focus on faith and doubt–on the relationship between the two (i.e. “it’s okay to doubt sometimes”) and on the words of Jesus (“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed”). But I often think about why Thomas did not believe his companions when they proclaimed to him, “We have seen the Lord.” Perhaps, we might easily say that such belief  asks a great deal of someone, especially without his being present during Christ’s appearance. But perhaps, Rev. Michael Yakaitis suggested some years ago in a homily at The University of Chicago, it was because the disciples were still huddling in the upper room, as John tells us, with the doors locked. Perhaps Thomas thought about what they proclaimed, looked around at the fear that kept the doors locked, and concluded simply, “I don’t believe you.”

After all, to believe in the risen Christ is to believe that God can take the brokenness, vulnerabilities, and losses of our lives and redeem them. It is to believe that all other standards of judgment, all other criteria of value, and all other measures of success must be rooted first in the faithfulness to the one who says, “Whatever you do for the least, you do for me.” It is, finally, to live in relentless and courageous love, in faith that love has conquered even death.

Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, puts it sharply when he observes*:

“Christ is risen.” Whoever believes that
Should not behave as we do

For our faith to be real, it has to make a difference. Of course, come Pentecost, the Holy Spirit will give the disciples the courage to live in faith, to speak the truth of love to power, and to stand with the broken and the marginalized.

For those of us who live with the doors and windows locked, for those of us who live in fear of judgment, instability, and vulnerability, our Pentecost cannot come soon enough. May the Spirit come soon, and may all know we have faith in the risen Christ by our love.

(*Thank you to Artur Rosman for sharing the poem here)

Andrew Staron is an assistant professor of theology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia