I find it remarkable that each year at the Easter Vigil, adult women and men stand up in good numbers in our churches and ask for Baptism or Reception into our Church. Don’t you? This happens everywhere in the world where the Catholic Church stands with open doors. The newcomers enter into a new relationship with Jesus, the Risen One, our Brother and Lord. They also enter a complex church.
Our church is an Easter people, for as Paul tells us "If Jesus had not risen, our belief would be in vain.” But we are also a human church and therefore, not above sin. Throughout our history up to this very day, our church gives witness to the depth and compelling love of the Risen Lord. But we see in our church threads of destructiveness, violence and eruptions that are not life-giving.
In the face of scandal and disillusionment with what we see and negatively experience about our church, our newbies and we ourselves have a choice: Will we as baptized members of Christ’s Body stay or go? Will the relationship we have with the Risen One inspire us to go on or will we quietly slip out the door, because the defects of our church repel us too much?
Take heart. In the 21st century, as in centuries before, the Holy Spirit is moving us as a church in new and unknown directions- still faithful to the Risen Jesus, but new. Pope Francis is an example of that. The church is being painfully transformed. Ask any mother about birthing. Pain is laced with bringing forth new life.
It’s a highly personal question: do we have the courage to stay? Not to just sit in the pew on Sundays, but to participate in the becoming of the church, to share making our faith communities attractive, welcoming, prayerful and grounded in the word of God and the celebration of the Sacraments.
When we find ourselves dissenting from some point that is being raised up in the church, we need not fear. Dissent is as much a part of faith as doubt.
On the 4th Sunday after Easter, our Gospel gives us Thomas . Poor man . For over 2000 years, he has probably hidden in some heavenly nook until the day is over! Too much Thomas-talk!
Yet doubt is an intrinsic moment of living faith, and when we face it, confront it, breakthroughs are possible.
Once Jesus came to and interacted with Thomas, Thomas uttered words that no one had spoken before.
My Lord and My God. Thomas words are a gift to us. His words become yours, mine, ours. My Lord and My God. Precisely when Thomas looked upon the wounds of Christ, when you and I look upon the wounds of our church that renewed faith becomes real. The poet Rumi says it this way:
“Don’t turn your head away
Keep looking at the wounds,
for that is where the light enters .”
~ Sister Joan Sobala